Streaming battle: Who’s watching what in South-east Asia

South-east Asian consumers are facing a welcome deluge of video-on-demand streaming services – whether home-grown or imported. And they come with steep discounts and local content to coax tens of millions of consumers away from free platforms like
South-east Asian consumers are facing a welcome deluge of video-on-demand streaming services – whether home-grown or imported. And they come with steep discounts and local content to coax tens of millions of consumers away from free platforms like YouTube and into paying for a subscription. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

MALAYSIA

Over 14 million people in Malaysia subscribe to streaming services, and this multicultural audience laps up everything from local Malay dramas to US horror shows.

Homegrown shows like Arus Merah and the KL Special Force series are available from regional provider iFlix, which also offers subscribers VIP access for a monthly fee of RM10 (S$3.30).

Stalwart Tonton has been streaming local movies and TV channels for free since 2010.

Korean drama fans get to watch their favourite oppas (older brothers) in Goblin or the acclaimed movie Parasite on Viu, from as little as RM8 a month.

Newcomer Dimsum focuses on Asian content including popular Chinese dramas like Love Of Thousand Years, the Korean series At Eighteen, and Thai comedies like My Ambulance.

Streaming giant Netflix has the highest fees, from RM17 a month. Its current top trending shows are Korean horror movie Alive and TV series Record Of Youth, with American comedy horror The Babysitter Killer: Killer Queen coming third.

Business looks set to grow. A million new subscribers were added last year alone, according to data analytics company Nielsen.

The Malaysian Digital Association says Netflix posted 195 per cent year-on-year traffic growth in the third week of March. Tonton showed 232 per cent growth, and Dimsum and Viu each gained 140 per cent for the same period.

THAILAND

The coronavirus pandemic has given a boost to video streaming as Thais stuck at home flocked online.

Viewership of The Series Y, which depicts romance between men, reportedly grew by five times in March on Line TV, a streaming platform offered by the Line messaging app.

 
 

Online viewers in Thailand have a multitude of options ranging from Line TV and AIS Play to WeTV by Chinese giant Tencent, Viu, as well as Netflix.

According to research firm Nielsen Media Thailand, 37 million unique users in the country watched content on streaming platforms last month. This is a 28 per cent jump from the monthly average of 29 million last year.

The most popular genres of Thai streaming content are dramas, entertainment quiz shows, news programmes and sports.

Among the top streaming titles last month were dramas like Ching Roi Ching Lan offered by Workpoint channel's streaming platform and So Wayree and Prom Pissawat on Channel 7's Bugaboo platform, said Ms Sajinee Srichawla Sivasiamphai, Nielsen's associate director of digital strategy.

"The Thai content market has great potential. It is already leading the way in technology platforms and content variations, and then you have different subscription models for consumers," she said. "Thailand is kind of leading the way across the region."

 
 

PHILIPPINES

  • US$1.4 billion

    Estimated value of South-east Asia’s streaming market by end 2020

  • US$3.6 billion

    Estimated value of South-east Asia’s streaming market by end 2025

  • 5.1 billion

    Total minutes watched a week from mid-March to mid-June across Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines

There are at least a dozen streaming services in the Philippines, including big names such as Netflix, Apple TV+, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video, Fox+ and YouTube Premium.

Homegrown iWant carries the biggest library of Filipino movies, alongside iFlix which also offers a slew of Filipino titles. Viu, HOOQ and Mubi are other contenders.

One estimate by a social media polling firm said some 30 million Filipinos have streamed movies, whether via free services or as paying customers.

Still, television remains king, drawing nine out of every 10 Filipinos. Research firm Nielsen said TV viewership grew some 3.8 million during shutdowns to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

But with 73 million out of the total population of 110 million having Internet access, the Philippine market remains fertile for streaming services.

According to Netflix's own list, Hollywood fares 6 Underground and Murder Mystery were the most-watched movies in Philippines last year. The next three were all Filipino movies.

But so far this year, Filipinos have been going ga-ga over shows from South Korea. Among the blockbusters were Crash Landing On You, Kingdom, and It's Okay To Not Be Okay.

The growing popularity of these streaming services has not gone unnoticed. The government is proposing a 12 per cent tax on "digital services", which it hopes will raise 29 billion pesos (S$810 million) to help fund the country's pandemic response.

"These companies are making a killing because of isolation but are not paying enough taxes. We just want them to pay their fair share," said Representative Joey Salceda.


Main players in the region

DISNEY+

Disney+ Hotstar, which started in Indonesia on Sept 5, is offering mobile subscriptions for just 39,000 rupiah (S$3.60) a month. Users will get access to 7,500 Disney movies, including those from its Marvel franchise, as well as series episodes. It also offers 300 Indonesian titles. Seven Indonesian production houses have agreed to stream their upcoming releases directly to the Disney+ service.

NETFLIX

Netflix is defending its dominant position in South-east Asia with an additional 500 licensed Indonesian titles this year. More than 200 original series and films since it set up in the region in 2016 have helped give Netflix a 44 per cent market share of streaming revenue, according to Media Partners Asia data. However, that share is poised to shrink as Disney and Chinese providers, backed by Tencent and Baidu, enter the market.

VIU

Owned by Hong Kong telecoms company PCCW, Viu is a hit in Indonesia and Thailand and has about a fifth of the South-east Asian video-streaming market.

It specialises in Korean and other Asian titles and offers a mixed subscription and advertising model. Still, Viu risks being squeezed out by bigger competitors with thicker catalogues and deeper pockets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2020, with the headline 'Who’s watching what in South-east Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe