Piracy, regulatory regimes and the evolution of business models dominate the agenda for the Asian video industry.

by ACN Editor
The Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) welcomed over 500 senior video executives to the Asia Video Summit, held at the Ritz Carlton, Millenia, Singapore from 4 – 6 November. The summit continued to address the State of the Video Industry focusing on five key themes – business models, advertising, human capital, news and policy, some of the most pressing issues the industry faces today.

The theme of partnerships cut across many of the discussions and sessions, especially when it came to the issue of piracy. Henry Tan, CEO of Astro emphasized that in order to prevent pirates from stealing our lunch, a collaborative approach between industry and regulators is needed in addition to consumer awareness. Dr R.S. Sharma, Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), who was given the responsibility of regulating Asia’s most dynamic and vibrant video marketplace, shared that India’s recent conversion to digital was a phenomenal achievement. Consumers should be given the choice to pay for what they wish to watch. Empowering the customer with choice as well as digitization has helped India to reduce piracy tremendously.

Today, VOD streaming services are grappling with the burning question of monetisation with no clear consensus on what the best model is. Netflix continue with a pure subscription model while Janice Lee, MD of PCCW Media Group said Viu revenues were today evenly split between advertising and subscription in their freemium model, but she believed subscription would be the more important of the two in the future. Mark Britt, Co-Founder and Group CEO of iflix took a very bearish position on subscription in South East Asia and insisted that advertising was the key to unlocking consumer growth and loyalty in the region.

The other prominent discussion centred around how innovation in the world of online streaming video for curated content can be damaged by unwise regulation. The very rapid development of new and innovative services in Asia was underlined in a discussion between Elaine Uy, Head of OTT for ABS-CBN, Gidon Freeman, VP, Government and Regulatory Affairs for NBCUniversal International, Sulyna Abdullah, Director of Public Policy South East Asia for Netflix and Deepak Jacob , the Chief Regional Counsel India, South East Asia & Middle East for The Walt Disney Company. However, the consensus was that proposals for greater regulation – some quite extreme – are also circulating in the region, and that there was a great risk of over regulation. Curated video platforms posed few if any real problems for Asian societies and governments compared to other internet content, and Gidon Freeman emphatically made the point that over regulation of curated content services placed them at a huge competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis piracy services and social media services like Facebook and YouTube, which had much more dangerous problems with the content they hosted – and were sucking up all the ad revenues, risking killing newer innovative curated offerings.
In the newly launched Tech Innovation Stream at the summit, the themes on flexibility, enhancing the video experience for viewers and user engagement were reiterated in multiple discussions. Organisations are recognising the importance of delivering an experience that makes them stand out from their competition. Better understanding of viewers’ behaviour, localisation and customisation of content were required. Equally it was felt that integration of technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud, voice search, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) amongst others are required to accelerate the video industry’s transformation.

In an exclusive interview with ACN team, AVIA CEO, Louis Boswell discussed more about Asia Video Summit 2019. Given below are some excerpts from the discussion -

Q. There are several similar industry events in the region already, why a special event on Video specifically? 
 
LB: That is who we are – the Asia Video Industry Association.  It is such a vibrant and diverse industry from pay TV to free to air to streaming VOD it makes sense for us to bring the industry together once a year to take stock of how we are changing and evolving.

Q. How has the role of Video changed for end consumers over the last decade or so? 
 
LB: It could not have changed more.  Video has exploded from one screen to multi-screen, delivery has become on demand as well as linear, new services have erupted and free video on YouTube and social media have exploded to provide more competition fir consumer time and attention.

Q. What is the core objective of this event? Who is the target audience? 
 
LB: All parts of the video ecosystem.  Content producers, aggregators and distributors and anyone who provides solutions or services within that ecosystem.  The objective is to take stock of the state of the industry, and as an industry, in a non-partisan environment, have a frank conversation about the challenges and opportunities we face.

Q. Will this event take place in other Asian countries as well soon? 
 
LB: We are bringing this event to Singapore for the first time.  I believe it makes sense to hold it in one of the international regional hubs for the video industry so it will likely be here or Hong Kong.  We do a series of other conferences throughout the year that take place in different markets around the region.

Q. Are there any business opportunities at the event for attendees to explore?

LB: Of course.  Any time you get so many senior industry executives in the same room, there is always business to be done.