Opinion

Sinking Vietnam’s pirates with programmatic

Although large-scale piracy remains an endemic problem in Vietnam, broadcasters can claw back their share of advertising revenues with the right technological investments, says creative agency Spinach’s Ben Willee

In a pirate’s paradise where so-called ‘dirty websites’ steal valuable audiences from the cinema and television screens in their droves, Vietnamese TV networks are facing a constant battle to maintain and generate revenue and market share.

It is estimated that there are 200 of these websites operating in Vietnam, giving consumers unlimited access to everything from local TV programs to Hollywood blockbusters. Although almost half of these sites are guilty of serious copyright and intellectual property violation, attempts to combat the scale of piracy in Vietnam have met with little success.

However, there is hope for for the beleaguered broadcasting stations, but it will require effort, diligence and investment. And that investment needs to be directed towards programmatic technology.

I recently met with a number of executives from public-owned Ho Chi Minh City Television in Melbourne. They informed me that nearly 80 per cent of their revenues come from media agencies, whose international holding companies are already investing heavily in automated buying and selling in other Asian markets. However, in Vietnam this investment is sorely lacking.

Magna Global research cites Vietnam as being one of the least developed markets in Asia when it comes to programmatic alongside the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. Magna Global figures estimate that only US$4 million of advertising across digital platforms was traded programmatically in Vietnam in 2015 compared to, say, Australia where that figure was US$600 million. Still, that figure is expected to grow to US$33m by 2019, which is not entirely insignificant.

Given this potential, there is a clear opportunity for Vietnamese broadcasters to sink the pirates by cashing in on programmatic. The most effective way of ensuring this is by launching programs a day or several hours ahead of their airing schedules on apps and streaming services and enabling programmatic technology on these content offerings. This would allow the broadcasters to monetise online content before the pirates even get a look in, and thereby keep hold of their revenue. It’s pretty simple. You can take the wind out of the pirate’s sails by giving content away for free which, in turn, delivers a better experience for consumers who aren’t putting themselves at risk of having their personal information compromised as many ‘dirty websites’ have been known to do.

Adtech companies such as American firm SpotX can play a major role in boosting Vietnam’s fledgling programmatic space. The company brokered a deal with Vietnamese broadcaster BHD to start selling the media company’s online video assets programmatically which puts the company in a prime position to tap audiences in the video-on-demand and low-power TV space. With this technology in place, broadcasters such as BHD can easily tap into agency trading desks to sell their inventory programmatically and by doing so will develop the know-how to do the same once the technology is in place for linear TV.  

The way I see it, broadcasters in the region have two options: invest now in the technology that will allow them to trade programmatically or risk missing the boat altogether. The longer they leave it, the harder it is going to be to play catch up. Otherwise it won’t be the pirates who are left walking the plank.

Ben Willee is the general manager and media director of creative agency Spinach

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