Cathay Cineplexes eyes a slice of the OTT pie by launching Cathay CineHome

Cathay Cineplexes has entered the over-the-top (OTT) scene with its video service Cathay CineHome in Singapore to allow movie lovers greater flexibility on how and when they want to watch their favourite films. According to the company, Cathay CineHome was initially conceived as a complementary platform to the cinema exhibition business. However, its development was expedited as COVID-19 resulted in many cinemas closing from March to July this year. Taking the downtime in stride, mm2 and Cathay Cineplexes looked to formulate the future of the movie business and accelerate its long-term plans for digital transformation.

According to Cathay, the OTT services aims to serve movie lovers who may have missed catching their favourite films in the cinemas and the additional viewing opportunity will will create synergies for both movie distributors and consumers.The content will be available on platforms such as mobiles, tablets, computers, and is available to cast straight to Smart TVs. Among the list of titles offered on Cathay CineHome include Ah Boys To Men 3: Frogmen, Bring Me Home, Little Q, Pee Nak 2, and Sheep Without A Shepherd

While Cathay Cineplexes' spokesperson declined to comment on how long the OTT platform has been in the works and the monetary investment, she said the company formally announced in 24 June that it was working on Cathay CineHome, adding that an OTT platform has been in its business strategy for a long time.

When asked how it plans to stand out from the other OTT platforms in the market, the spokesperson said the brand is very much associated with movies and entertainment in Singapore. "Cathay CineHome is offering movies that were screened in cinemas that recently ended, on a rental basis with no monthly fees. So consumers only need to pay for what they want to watch," she said.

It will be rolling out cross-promotions across Cathay Cineplexes and Cathay CineHome. For example, if consumers watch a movie at Cathay Cineplexes that they enjoy, they could get a free pass to gift the movie to their friends or family members when it becomes available on Cathay CineHome. Additionally, it will be offering free seasonal promotional titles, such as the six titles available now.

Due to film licencing, the OTT platform will only be available on Singapore. "We do have plans to roll out to the other regional markets that we are in, but these are still in the horizon only," the spokesperson added.

Mm2 Asia Group CEO Chang Long Jong said the Cathay Cineplexes brand is endearingly linked with entertainment and movies in the hearts and minds of Singaporeans. "Many people have fond memories of movie outings with family and friends at Cathay Cineplexes. Cathay CineHome is continuing that tradition online," he added.

The OTT video market is set to surpass US$200 billion by 2024, with 90% of that value fueled by subscription and advertising revenue, according to global tech market advisory firm ABI Research. New services such as Disney+ and Apple TV+, coupled with aggressive pricing and packaging, and continued expansion by incumbents are pushing the subscription video on demand market to new heights. The report added that subscriptions in the Asia Pacific region have grown significantly, driven by key services such as iQIYI/Baidu, Tencent, Youku Tudou/Alibaba Group in China, and increasing opportunities in India.

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In an earlier conversation with Marketing, Girish Menon, vice president, client development, [m]PLATFORM APAC told Marketing that the variety of streaming services available will make it expensive and "painful" for consumers in the short term. According to him, new streaming services will essentially replace the various cable channel groups that customers are accessing via their Pay TV packages. Although the streaming services were created as cheaper and more manageable alternatives as compared to the "bloated" 100-200 channel Pay TV packages customers currently pay, Menon said there are now so many of these separate services that it has put customers into the same mess which they were supposedly trying to solve. 

Agreeing on the issue was Ampersand Advisory CEO Sandeep Joseph, who said in Asia local content will still likely be the main driver of subscriptions. With streaming services battling to become one of consumers' top three choices, Joseph said brands will need to win the local content game where they have a slight head start in terms of time, but are disadvantaged in terms of budgets compared to players such as Disney+.

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