Video-streaming markets in the Asia-Pacific region are poised to grow massively over the next few years. But the big picture forecasts mask sharply different trends and conceal an inevitable process of consolidation.
Digital TV Research, a British analysis firm, recently forecast the region’s over-the-top (OTT) video sector as tripling in size from $8.27 billion today to $24.4 billion by 2022.
Using a different basis of calculation that includes advertising on Facebook and YouTube, Singapore-based Media Partners Asia predicts the OTT business growing at a 21% compound average rate, and expanding from $17.6 billion in 2017 to $46 billion by 2022.
That in turn points to the emergence of very substantial ancillary markets in many territories. At present, many Asian territories see theatrical accounting for 70%-80% of a film’s potential revenues. Lucrative new markets beyond theatrical have the potential to change budgets and business models for Asian filmmakers.
By far the largest single slice of the pie is China, which, according to Media Partners Asia, could account for 75% of Asian advertising and subscription revenues by 2022.
Unfortunately for international streaming services, the Chinese government shows no sign of allowing anyone other than local companies to operate, unless they bow to censorship and technology compromises.
The Chinese market, while still fluid, has consolidated around three players — iQIYI, Tencent Video and Youku Tudou, backed by China’s internet behemoths Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba, respectively.
Local content and market position are key to the fight. Where the global giants are weak in acquired and original local content, the nimbler regional players have made some headway. But data clarity is poor, and paying subscriptions are likely still small.
Backed by Hong Kong telco PCCW, Viu in June claimed more than 12 million monthly active users in Asia. Iflix is believed to have more than 2 million paying subscribers across Asian and the Middle East.
Both Amazon and Netflix are now financing large numbers of local shows in Japan, where Hulu is by some measures the leader in a market with more than 30 competitors.
Amazon and Netflix are similarly accelerating commissioning in India and South Korea, which are both lucrative markets, albeit at different stages of infrastructure development.
In a similar vein, alliances with the region’s cellular and cable delivery networks are being urgently sought by the streamers. That’s not just because more Asian consumers are watching on their mobile devices, but also the carriers can offer bundles and billing solutions.
Analysts, such as Media Partners Asia’s Vivek Couto, view consolidation among the local and pan-regional players as inevitable. That may not happen until each has made further appeals to the capital markets and multinational media groups for funding. Iflix boasts Hearst, Liberty Global and the U.K.’s Sky in its corner.
Viu recently lined up Hony Capital, iPhone maker Foxconn and Temasek, the Singapore sovereign wealth fund that recently bought a stake in CAA.