The importance of knowing what’s trending on video in Asia was underlined Tuesday when YouTube’s international marketing director Sean Park told FilMart delegates that Asia now accounts for five of its top 10 territories in the world – even without China, where the Google-owned platform is not allowed to operate.
A day earlier, executives from Asian-based streaming firms pointed to the success – and diversity – of local content as driving their different business models.
“Local content – acquired and produced – performed six times better than Western content for us in 2018. That’s why we’ve done an about-turn [and increased original content spending],” said Craig Galvin, chief content officer at multinational streaming company iflix.
“We are making series where we put out first the three episodes for free on YouTube, and then monitor our conversion rate of people coming to our site for the rest of the show,” said Dennis Yang, an advisor to Taiwan-based video streaming firm KKTV, a sister company to music streamer KKBOX. “We intend to produce 20 to 30 per year like that and make some feature films from certain ones.”
Asian streaming companies are operating with hybrid business models that span free-to-use advertising-supported and paid subscription versions.
“SVOD and [advertising video on demand (AVOD)] work side by side, with a four-day difference,” said Thawatvongse Silamanonda, Thailand country manager, for Viu, the Hong Kong-based regional player, explaining that subscribers get content before that content is released for “free” users. “We are also competing against piracy. That’s a strong reason to launch AVOD,” said Galvin.
Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm, which straddles the U.S. and China, said that there had been two major trends in North America. driven by Asian content in the past 20 years. “First was Japanese anime, which is now no longer about geeks and has crossed over to the mainstream. The second has been Korean content,” Sondheim said, who predicts that Chinese content could be the next to cross over.
The company is currently readying Bambu, a streaming service for North America and built on Chinese content. Korean shows in the U.S. were initially popular with younger groups, before becoming more mainstream. “Our target therefore is to find younger TV shows appealing to the 20-25 year-old. We are looking for Chinese series and recent movies, and staying away from traditional costume dramas.”
Within Asia, Korean content is among the most widely viewed regional content, a position that used to belong to Hong Kong film and TV shows a decade ago. “Korean content has really opened up international,” said Jennifer Batty, chief content officer at Hooq. “But in the past two years, Thai content is increasingly being watched.”
The global streaming platforms are not dominant in most of Asia, but remain important, and can address a global audience. “Pororo” was an example of a traditional Korean animation series that used YouTube to reach beyond its conventional markets, said Park. Korean kids series “Baby Shark” is new generation show, built for the OTT era, Park noted. He said that “Baby Shark” had become the most watched educational video series ever, with 5 billion views last year and over 60 million subscribers to its YouTube channel.