Kimmy Suraphongchai, Country Manager at iflix in Thailand, shares her views on the evolution of the Asian TV markets, the need for business model innovation, and more!

The Pay-TV Innovation Forum is a global research programme for senior pay-TV and content executives, developed by NAGRA and MTM, and designed to catalyse growth and innovation across the global TV industry, at a time of tremendous change and disruption.

As part of the programme, we are publishing a series of interviews with leading TV industry executives from around the world to explore their views, perspectives and experiences of innovation. In this interview, Kimmy Suraphongchai, Country Manager at iflix Thailand, shares her views on the evolution of the Asian TV markets, the need for business model innovation, the threat of and responses to content piracy, and most attractive areas of opportunity for video service providers.

How is consumer demand for TV and video services changing across South East Asia?

We are seeing massive growth across the region, with new launches and new distribution partnerships, so there is definitely substantial interest in a service like iflix. With the proliferation of other regional and international players, there’s also a greater awareness of the VOD model. Our challenge now is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy world-class content on their terms, regardless of the ability or willingness to pay for such a service.

How do you adapt your products and strategy to a consumer base reluctant or unwilling to pay?

We’re constantly experimenting, testing and learning from our experiences, and this has resulted in a complete evolution of our service, moving away from an exclusively-SVOD service, requiring paid subscriptions. iflix is thrilled to offer amazing free content on our platform to cater to consumers who have an appetite for great entertainment, but are unable or unwilling to pay.  Free content is supported by advertising and will complement our subscription model. Consumers can expect to see a vast collection of short-form content, local favourites, a feature Movie of the Day, and preview episodes of some of the hottest Western content too.

In terms of payment flexibility, we’re experimenting with bite-sized payments, such as weekly and even daily passes, to make it easier for people to manage their cash flow.

User experience and content discovery are also very important. Later this year we’ll be launching a new user interface, which will change the way users discover new content, and will offer a more personalised user experience too.

With a number of new service launches in the region over the last couple of years, how would you describe the current competitive landscape that you operate in?

The launches of other OTT services have served to educate consumers about the VOD model, and have offered them an alternative to piracy. To that end, iflix has benefitted greatly from the competition. iflix has thrived because of its focus on affordability and localised content.

However, what we’re seeing this year is that local players are beginning to dial back – we are not seeing that much activity from them. As a result, the strongest competitors are the regional and international players.

What is iflix’s positioning in terms of content and how do you ensure you reach your target audience?

We’re positioning iflix as a ubiquitous service, with something for everybody. It is very important for us to understand local consumer preferences and get the right balance between local and international content. In terms of reaching our target audiences, we want to be where the audiences are. Currently, iflix is still predominantly consumed on mobile devices, but we’re seeing the biggest growth in consumption on the TV screen. This is due to our recent partnerships with Smart TV manufacturers and set-top box service providers.

What are the most attractive areas of opportunity for TV and video service providers to focus on over the next five years?

At iflix, it is about adding high-quality content that has mass-market appeal and introducing additional monetisation models, which give us the opportunity to address a wider audience than typically reached by pay-TV services. In some of our markets, we have introduced live-streaming of local free-to-air channels on our platform and are considering doing something similar in Thailand.

Content piracy is seen as a major threat to the pay-TV and content industries across South East Asia. How can the industry tackle it?

Piracy is definitely a major threat and the industry, especially the traditional players who have more power to take action against pirates, should be doing more to fight piracy.

I don't think people wake up with the mindset of 'I'm going to pirate content and break the law’. They just want to watch great content on their terms, and legitimate providers may fail to provide them with relevant options. Without them, people opt for pirated content.

Piracy is tackled by offering content that audiences want - faster and cheaper. This might be more effective than taking the enforcement route, because the IP laws in Thailand are still relatively unenforced, litigation takes a long time, and only content owners and pay-TV platforms, to an extent, have the legal grounds to act, while OTT providers cannot do much to shut down pirate services apart from reporting them. iflix takes a stand as a viable competitor to piracy – offering high-quality localised content, on a range of devices, at an affordable price. Coupled with a growing free content library and an improved ability to download and watch offline, we feel we’ll chip away at this prevalent problem.