What does the future hold for pay-TV in Asia?

Asian children screens
From shifting consumer behaviour to the rapidly evolving threat of piracy, pay-TV operators across Asia have been forced into a radical top-down rethink of their business models recently.

These issues were explored most recently by executives across Asia at this year's Pay-TV Innovation Forum, the global research programme for senior pay-TV and content executives. 

Here are three of the most significant issues facing operators today. 

1.    A new landscape

The Director of Commercial Strategy and Communications APAC at Fox Networks Group Asia, Anoop Manghat, says that younger generations have created a new landscape: “A lot of [younger people] have grown up in markets where pay-TV penetration has been below 20-30%, with mobile phones or laptops being their first point of access to media and information”, he says. 

That said, there are still plenty of opportunities in this evolving landscape. 

Bee Lian Ong, Vice President of TV Engineering at Singapore telco StarHub, says “with OTT, pay-TV providers have an opportunity to reach new customers who are not within the managed network or who do not own the provider’s set-top box. It has become a more open market.”

He continues, “there is also a change in terms of which content packages consumers subscribe to. Even when pay-TV providers continue to offer big bouquets of channels, they need to provide a wider selection to cater to evolving consumer preferences.”

2.    Linear isn’t dead

Traditional consumer habits haven’t disappeared completely.

Anurag Dahiya, Head of Content & Ad Sales at Singtel, says “linear TV is not dead. Consumers still like linear TV and will continue to want it in the future, especially in genres like sports and news, and when they are looking for lean-back experiences and serendipitous discovery.

“However, linear TV has to evolve”, he caveats. “You can’t expect consumers to always tune in on the scheduled time, they need to be able to restart the show, go back into a previous episode if they like it. This customer segment continues to represent a significant part of the market.” 

3.    Will pirates walk the plank?

The other significant factor remains the piracy ecosystem.

Dahiya continues: “I’m not competing with OTT services like Netflix. In Singapore, people don’t cord-cut because of OTT services, they do it so they can get on to a cheap Android set-top box with illegally-sourced content. That is a really big threat to the entire TV and video ecosystem.”

He concludes: “there’s a whole multi-national pirate ecosystem that we need to fight against, and this will require a more dedicated and collaborative effort in terms of legal enforcement, PR, and consumer education.”

Of course, success ultimately relies on an operator’s ability to innovate – and not just in one area.

Bee Lian Ong concludes: “we need to take a 360-degree view of innovation. In addition to being more agile and flexible on the technology side through various software-based and IP solutions, we need to consider the whole user experience and needs. 

“At the end of the day, the more you understand about your customers’ evolving needs, the better the service you can provide.” 

In the context of the Asian pay-TV industry, it’s clear that new priorities are emerging. Addressing the issues of piracy, adjusting to new generations of consumers, all while accommodating traditional subscribers, will be key to the success of pay-TV service providers across Asia.

Find out more in our latest summary of the Pay-TV Innovation Forum annual findings and download the free report.