Stream catchers: Asia's streaming boom

For all the headaches and frustration, Asia remains – not unexpectedly – in full streaming mode.  

As of end October this year, we counted 120 streaming platforms in 17 countries across Asia, a net add of four (3%) from the last count in December 2016. Not all of them are the same ones we counted last year. Not all are created equal by any stretch of imagination. And absolutely no one is pretending the streaming business is easy in a region still figuring out how to conquer its infrastructure and affordability Everest. Not to mention the tech and service challenges of meeting the simple one-click access that is the holy grail of the SVOD universe. 

But the fact remains that optimism runs high. And, dare we say it, leaders like Hong Kong’s Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB) are already looking to a day when they will box up their terrestrial broadcasting licences, heave a sigh of relief, and hand them right back to where they came from in favour of superior bandwidth options and a world of mega functionality. 

Meanwhile, Asia heads into its streaming future with 18 regional platforms, up three from the 15 we counted at the end of last year. 

The biggest and most ambitious local player is FOX Networks Group’s FOX+, which put the finishing touches on launch party plans for Hong Kong as this edition went to print. Hong Kong gives FOX+ its fourth market since rolling out in the Philippines in March this year. The platform is also up and running in Singapore and Taiwan. 

We love tonton, too, as much for its team as for its willingness to gather its courage, step beyond its domestic comfort zone for the first time, and turn up on the regional stage with a smile on its face and the will to figure out the politics of neighbourly collaboration. 

The third newcomer, India’s ALTBalaji, is smaller and lower key, with the jury out on whether the platform has the resources to compete with powerful local and global rivals hellbent on engaging with India’s 1.2 billion consumers; but it’s powered by Ekta Kapoor, the queen of creating addictive TV hits, so we’re not counting anything out. 

Outside of the regional platforms, newbie players we’ve been watching this year include Hong Kong’s hmvod; DEN TV+ and Bigflix in India; Oona in Indonesia; and Kakao TV in Korea. 

Newcomers on our radar for 2018 are ZEE5, scheduled to roll out in the second half of 2018 as part of Indian media giant Zee’s domestic/regional/international expansion plans, and Premium Platform Japan, which launches in April 2018. ​

What else is showing up in our crystal ball at the moment? A lot, but here’s one thing we don’t think will happen: a standalone regional platform of international channel operators who are looking for an antidote to slashed carriage fees from traditional pay-TV partners. It’s a whisper and, we hear, only a few meetings in. Our bet is that it will, unlike 95% of the streaming platforms we counted, die quietly and with no harm done. - Janine Stein

This editorial piece was published in the November 2017 print issue of ContentAsia along with a who's who of streaming platforms in nine markets.