Netflix effect: Consumers may get new content, packages

As telecom companies here look to partner TV and movie streaming service Netflix, consumers may get a big dose of new local and regional content in time to come, say analysts.

Both StarHub and Singtel on Thursday said they were looking to partner Netflix, which launched in Singapore, as well as in 129 other new countries. This could include giving viewers access to Netflix content over a set-top box.

But viewers may get new content as well.

"Localisation of content will be key to success for international services - what works in one market won't always work in another. So we expect to see Netflix working with local creative industries to create new content specifically for the local audience," said Ms Aisling O'Dwyer, media lawyer at Olswang Asia. 

Mr Clement Teo of Forrester Research said telcos could also partner Netflix on delivering regional content, akin to what Netflix did with American TV drama series House Of Cards.

And if Netflix's deal with Japanese telco SoftBank is any indication, subscribers could see fresh billing arrangements.

"The Netflix app came pre-installed on all phones sold by the mobile company, and users were even able to pay for the service as part of their monthly contract. A similar package here might see users offered Netflix with a data package," said Ms O'Dwyer.

Telcos could see their pay-TV business hit by Netflix, but gain because of partnership on content, said analysts.

Mr Teo added: "It will also depend on Netflix's programming rights here. Not all shows are available in Singapore, and, in time to come, how quickly can it get these shows on its menu?"

He pointed out that StarHub has some exclusive content, such as through HBO, while Singtel has its Barclays Premier League package, which viewers will continue to subscribe to. Ultimately, the biggest threat to pay-TV services won't come from Netflix.

"Unfortunately in Singapore, the biggest threat to subscription TV services is probably illegal, pirated content and VPN services that deliberately bypass geoblocks," said Ms O'Dwyer.

Ms Lin Shu Fen, head of entertainment and SmartLife at StarHub, said: "Competition and disruptive technologies are not new to us. Neither is the fact that customers have always had access to multiple sources of entertainment."

The company has invested in StarHub Go, an over-the-top streaming service over smart devices.

Singtel feels the same way. "Singtel views the over-the-top space as a new area for telcos around the world to explore partnerships and collaborations. We see Netflix as complementary to our pay-TV services," said Mr Goh Seow Eng, managing director of Singtel's home consumer Singapore.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article referred to Aisling O'Dwyer as Mr Aisling O'Dwyer instead of  Ms Aisling O'Dwyer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'Netflix effect: Consumers may get new content, packages'. Print Edition | Subscribe