Q&A: Relevant content and Facebook key to Viu’s Philippines strategy

viu philippines
"Rather than open different apps directly, users are more likely to log on to Facebook to grab their entertainment. Our digital performance team has been doing a lot on Facebook to engage users." – Jacky Lai, assistant vice president of business development at PCCW OTT – Viu

On the sidelines of CASBAA Philippines In View, which wrapped up on Wednesday, Jacky Lai, assistant vice president of business development at PCCW OTT-Viu, updates Disruptive.Asia on Viu’s progress in the Philippines and explains why localized content and social media engagement are key to success in that market.

Disruptive.Asia: Viu launched in the Philippines in November last year – how has that been going?

Jacky Lai: We see that our localization strategy on content and product features has built strong traction with Filipinos. Viu Philippines has attracted 1.1 million monthly active users and 570,000 fans on our Facebook page. The extensive range of Korean content from the Top 4 Korean broadcasters with express delivery of content with English and eventually Tagalog subtitles is of such interest to 15 million K-fans – based on Facebook’s estimation– that paid users are not as inactive as in other bundled services, but viewing us up to 19 hours per month.

The dual revenue approach – a paid layer with premium features and ad-supported free layers – has also helped us to capture market share within a year not just from other services but also from a key competitor around the world: pirate sites. Users can enjoy a stable source of legally authorized content with good quality – local subtitling, smooth streaming, etc – and thus switching from pirate sites to Viu.

Meanwhile, our engagement cover more touch points of our fans’ lives. Curated content by our local social team is combined with exclusive entertainment news from Dispatch – the biggest entertainment new hub in Korea – to deliver the relevant “side-stories” of K content to Viu fans. Our co-op with Inquirer has also stirred up the Hallyu in the Philippines.

PCCW OTT just announced some new capital investment from Hony, Foxconn and Temasek – what does that mean for your operation in the Philippines?

Apart from helping the rapid expansion of the business in emerging markets and solidifying our leading position in existing markets, they are also experienced in investing in other media business, which can bring knowledge to build the organic growth of the business in the Philippines in each market segment. For example, Foxconn has a very strong foundation on hardware and software, which can extend the value chain for us.

What particular challenges are there in offering OTT video in the Philippines compared to other markets where Viu operates?

Compared to other markets, Facebook on mobile looks like the primary and only anchor to the digital world. Rather than open different apps directly, users are more likely to log on to Facebook to grab their entertainment. Our digital performance team has been doing a lot on Facebook to engage users – curating content with a strong local context and interaction, for example live feed of big concerts and events update from Korea on the Viu Philippines [Facebook] page – and a responsive digital media strategy.

Strong reach via Facebook together with free layers of services – for example, users clicking the post will be diverted to the designated content and watch it directly rather than via the subscription process – is crucial to our rapid growth here.

How do traditional pay-TV players see Viu – competitor, partner, both?

We see that we are building a healthier ecosystem in the Philippines – when more legal content is brought in and more platforms promote content on authorized platforms, you have more viewers going to legal sites, which is good not only for all players, but also content providers.

With the pay-TV space getting increasingly crowded in the Philippines, what’s the best strategy to stay profitable?

We have been leveraging the dual revenue model with premium Asian content and localized features to engage in the Philippines, where we see a strong AVOD and SVOD revenue.

The Nielsen Global Video-On-Demand Survey shows that 45% of online consumers in the Philippines watch VOD at least once a day. Moreover, 82% of online consumers said they like to catch up on multiple episodes at one time – so Viu’s download feature will fulfill this very need.

Viu is also an effective channel for advertisers looking to reach out to consumers in the Philippines as they are the most receptive to online advertisements in Southeast Asia, according to Digital TV Research. Recent research also revealed that 51% of respondents who watched VOD agreed that advertisements in VOD content give them good ideas for new products to try, and 66% said they did not mind getting advertisements if they can watch free content. Video advertising revenue in the Philippines is expected to grow at a CAGR of 32% from 2016 to 2021, according to Statistica.com.

Where do you see the local market going with SVoD? There’s lots of players but not everyone can subscribe to them all – will we see consolidation, bundles, or ways to consolidate the experience for viewers who don’t want to juggle five different subscriptions?

While there are more players in the market, content is crucial. Apart from Korean content, Viu is offering comprehensive range of premium Asian content that is strongly relevant to the local audience. Apart from Korean content which is popular across the region, Viu Original, our new original production initiative comprising Korean, Indian, Chinese and Indonesia content, enriches our content with strong relevance – for example, 60% of viewers in Viu India watched Viu Original series – and bring values to our business partners –for example, product placement in our original programs can be traded across the region.

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