The fight for captive audience attention is heating up, with Apple TV and Disney+ coming in to grab a slice of Netflix’s market. Meanwhile, video-on-demand players such as iflix and HOOQ are aggressively forging partnerships to bolster local content or extend local reach.
However, in a conversation with Marketing, Viu, an over-the-top (OTT) video streaming service operated by PCCW Media Group says that it is unfazed by the rising competition. In PCCW Media Group’s 2018 results, video OTT has grown by about 40% year-on-year and the overall OTT segment brought in US$117 million in revenue. Viu’s users has almost doubled to 30 million users in 2018, from 16 million the previous year. In just three years, Viu has spread its presence to 17 markets in Southeast Asia, Middle East, India and South Africa.
In terms of market performance, PCCW Media Group’s managing director Janice Lee said in an interview that Indonesia and Thailand are fastest-growing and have the highest potential due to their sheer market sizes. However, despite being small markets, Singapore and Hong Kong have seen high CPM and are generating significant revenue.
While talks of declining traditional television rings true, Lee said that screen time is much more than before due to increasing internet consumption. The rising number of streaming providers and options lately have only driven up the hours of media consumption even more.
To counter competition, Viu has built a niche in Asian content over the years to appeal to local audiences. It positions Korean content at the heart of its pan-region strategy, and supplement individual markets with localised Viu Originals.
“We have more than 90% of what is produced out of Korea, in terms of TV series and some variety shows and that’s really been a consistent and stable viewership for us. We put a lot of emphasis in localisation. Korean content are also subtitled into multiple languages within four hours of release,” said Lee.
The OTT provider has been producing original shows in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and India. Just last month, Viu Original makes its debut in Singapore with the release of reality travelogue, “No Sleep No FOMO”.
The show marks the first production to include a new interactive element that lets viewers engage directly with the show and its cast members. Dubbed as Viu Engage, the element gave social media followers and audience the opportunity to influence the course of the hosts’ adventures by interacting on their social media channels in real-time.
Since the beginning of the production, the social media posts of “No Sleep No FOMO” have organically reached three million users and generated more than 600,000 social interactions. Explaining the success, Lee said at the launch event that the team has particularly cast celebrities and influencers who have regional appeal from each of the markets.
“We are a very digital native service and our users are not just using Viu, they are using lots of social media. They are that crowd. We want to weave ourselves into that whole fabric of social media, and embrace their new lifestyle,” said Lee.
Viu released about 70 original titles in 2018. When asked about how it has kept up with changing consumer preferences, Lee said that its viewership histories of some 30 million users have taken the guessing out. Additionally, the company invests in machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve its analytics and operational efficiency.
Meanwhile, Viu has also been keeping a close watch on its monetisation formats to balance between user experience and sustainability. “When we started, we didn’t start with just subscription, we have a very strong ad platform. We have a ad tier – not all players have it. We saw the opportunity. Digital advertising, particularly video advertising is growing very significantly year on year,” said Lee.
However, Viu maintains a free tier as it recognises from the start that high viewership is also key to building its ad inventory. Advertisers can also target users watching long-form video content through the free tier in a brand safe environment. Besides pre-roll and mid-roll advertisement, Viu offer advertisers the opportunity to weave products and services within the story lines of its in-house productions.
The biggest challenge, according to Lee, is piracy.
“We have to find ways to have an offering that stands up to piracy, if not beat it. Through artificial intelligence, we crawl the internet, make reports and take down a lot of illegal sites. We are also improving the service to be fast and set new industry standards,” added Lee.