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(2/2) Swee Lin Liew, Group Chief Operating Officer at Astro Malaysia Holdings, shares her views on the evolution of pay-TV propositions, the potential of new business models, and the benefits of Android TV.
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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, Swee Lin Liew, Group Chief Operating Officer at Astro Malaysia Holdings shares her views on the evolution of pay-TV propositions, the potential of new business models, and the benefits of Android TV.  


Given the changing market and competitive landscape, how are you evolving your pay-TV proposition?  

We have to undergo a radical rethink of our pay-TV offering: How do we package and price our content for different audiences across various delivery platforms? How do we add value to our customers without asking them to pay more? How do we serve our customers and monetize more effectively, now that we are platform agnostic? How do we leverage vernacular content to differentiate our offering? Do we need a set-top box or can we rely on a boxless proposition to grow in new markets? How do we close the value gap vis a vis attractive OTT propositions? The fact that we’re not only an aggregator but also a producer of content helps – we’re highly invested in local content that underpins our local market leadership and keeps 70% of Astro’s viewership engaged.   

In terms of our product portfolio we’re taking a multi-pronged approach. We already serve around 80% of the high-income population in Malaysia with our premium offering. We’re working on refreshing it to provide the best user experience across all screens with personalisation and portability. We’re rolling out a 4K Ultra HD content and set-top box, upgrades to the UI, and cloud PVR. We’ve also developed propositions targeting other customer segments: NJOI – a free satellite TV proposition allowing customers to top up with a la carte pay-TV premium content, Tribe – a regional subscription OTT service targeting millennials across five markets in the region, and a new Android TV-based streaming box targeting new and unaddressed customer segments that would not otherwise buy our premium subscription package. In addition to these, we’re enhancing Astro Go, a TV Everywhere proposition that is free to our subscribers, and are looking to launch Smart TV apps for Astro Go and NJOI NOW. 


A growing number of OTT services across Asia Pacific are experimenting with hybrid, freemium services. What are your views about the prospects of this model?  

Freemium, with a pay wall is a good way scale in Asia Pacific, especially with the prevalence of piracy and global platforms like YouTube However, the big question is how many regional OTT players other than the global players, are successfully monetizing their content assets, irrespective of their revenue model. Most are still being bank-rolled by investors, and thus focus on pursuing scale and future returns, often sacrificing margins and ROI. I think we’re yet to see a profitable direct-to-consumer OTT model – be it subscription, ad-funded, or hybrid – in Asia Pacific. Monetisation remains elusive to many as it lags behind viewership and engagement.  


What motivated you to launch an Android streaming box?  

Advanced pay TV operators – like Sky or Liberty Global – are spending hundreds of millions developing proprietary set-top boxes. The only way they can do this is because of their scale. On the other hand, we recognise that there’s a lack of digital agility in proprietary DTH set-top boxes. As a result, more operators are moving to Android platforms, which offer more flexibility, agility as well as wider opportunities to monetise new features and aggregating other OTT apps. Of course, we have to be highly targeted in the way we roll out these boxes so that they are not replacing the premium services that our existing customers subscribe to.

Visit the Pay-TV Innovation Forum website to learn more about the program,  download the 2018 global findings report and access the complete “Interviews with Industry Leaders” series.

 

Read Part 1 of this interview here.