Localisation and relevance key to winning OTT battle in Asia, says PCCW Media MD Janice Lee

Localisation and relevance will be the key battleground for over-the-top service providers in the race for subscribers in Asia, the head of Hong Kong’s newly launched on-demand streaming content brand Viu has said.

Viu boss Janice Lee

PCCW Media managing director Janice Lee

PCCW Media, the multimedia arm of Hong Kong telco PCCW, today announced the launch of its Viu platform in Singapore through a deal with Singtel.

Viu is banking heavily on Korean content to attract subscribers for its initial push into the region on the back of deals with four Korean broadcasters, SBS, KBS, MBC and CJ E&M.

Janice Lee, managing director of PCCW Media, told Mumbrella that “home ground advantage” would help the Asia-based brand compete with Netflix, the US-based streaming platform that is making a major play in Asia this year.

Lee said that Viu’s decision to begin populating its platform with Korean dramas – the region’s most popular format type, according to research – and its ability to localise it quickly, with content subtitled in English and Chinese made available in Singapore as soon as eight hours after it is telecast in Korea, would also stand it in good stead.

In Singapore, Korean drama is the preferred content type for online video viewers (53 per cent) ahead of a preference for Western dramas (36 per cent), according to research from Viu. Korean and Western dramas are preferred to locally produced shows in Singapore, the research found.

The platform is launching with a freemium model, although PCCW has not disclosed details on how pricing will work in the near future.

Lee told Mumbrella: “We will announce details in due course, but there will be a transitional trial period to familiarise existing users. At this point, our focus is still on popularising the service.”

Viu has attracted more than 500,000 downloads in less than three months after launching in its home market of Hong Kong. This reflects a “phenomenal response to the service,” Lee said.

After Singapore, the service is to launch next in Malaysia, Indonesia and India, and Lee revealed plans to introduce a bouquet of Japanese and Chinese shows to the platform as the next step in building its content arsenal.

Viu launches the week after Netflix announced it was to launch in 130 globally, including a number of key markets in Asia including entertainment hubs Korea and Japan. Netflix is on a hiring spree to market its service across the region and has hired a creative agency to produce content for its social media channels.

To market its brand, PCCW is using television advertising, with ads to run on now TV in Hong Kong, as well as outdoor with ads on subway network MTR, and through alliances with retail outlets. A similar strategy is to be adopted for Singapore.

On the entry of Netflix into the region, Lee told Mumbrella: “More players in the OTT market is a clear indication of the rising demand from users, especially the millennial generation which increasingly want to access their video entertainment on mobile devices. In Asia alone, there are over 500 million OTT users. It reaffirms that Viu OTT is in the right business, launched in the right market at the right time.”

The service will also play a role in fighting piracy in the region, Lee added. “Viewers would much rather have localised, latest content that is stable and high quality with download options, rather than viewing their favourite programs on fuzzy streaming on illegal sites,” she said.

The service will also be easily accessible in developing markets with unreliable internet connections, Lee added, pointing to Viu’s adaptive bit rate technology which can “ensure stable, quality streaming.”


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