“Windowing has become very important," said Janice Lee, managing director at PCCW Media Group at the annual CASBAA Convention, referring to the gap between when content debuts in its native market and/or platform and when it becomes available in other markets/platforms. "Nowadays it's so borderless that viewers want content almost immediately."
For this reason, Viu is promising traditional Chinese subtitling in "just eight hours" after the first run of content, according to Lee.
Korean drama programming that "obviously travels very well across Asia" is a key selling point for the new OTT video platform, built around a freemium model in Hong Kong.
"Historically, [localisation of content] didn't happen that fast," Lee said. "It took at least two to three months, and that gap gave room for piracy."In Hong Kong, cheap set-top boxes that stream and store content illegally are a perennial favourite among pirates. "This is the value-add we can create around Viu even though we don't own the content," she said.
More than the localisation of language, it is also about the accessibility of content that may help PCCW win a battle for ad budgets in the city, which are famously still wedded to traditional media such as linear TV and print.
Viu will take up the broadcast spectrum currently used by ATV in Hong Kong, once the incumbent's licence expires next March. Viu also plans a larger rollout across Asia, likely to Singapore, Indonesia and India, in the following months.
In India, fixed-line broadband is not widespread and the company recognises that the Indian user base does not have access to 4G or even 3G networks. Therefore PCCW is investing in multi-encoding technology that allows the video content to run even on feature phones.
"Just like subtitling, this back-end process of testing as many as 8,500 phones to see which can run our service is quite laborious and not glamourous," added Lee.
In Viu, the letter “V” stands for “View” and “Video”, while “i” and “u” symbolically refer to people as the core of the OTT service, explained Lofai Lo, general manager of HKTVE.
In terms of the broader strategic integration with Now TV (a pay-TV service operated by PCCW), Lee said Viu, which will produce a series of original “factual entertainment” programs, is "really an extension of our media services" and will not cannabalise its pay-TV channels.