Now available in the island nation as a freemium service, the platform offers multi-screen access to a growing catalogue of Korean programming and other premium content from the region.
According to PCCW, the multi-screen streaming platform currently boasts more than 8 million subscribers across 11 markets.
This is largely due to the majority stake the company took in March 2015 in Vuclip, a mobile video-on-demand (VOD) service platform that operates in six countries in Asia and the Middle East.
Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific during the launch event, Janice Lee, managing director at PCCW Media Group, said the integrated billing solution that Vuclip developed with its telecom partners in various markets has enabled the company to fast-track OTT video and music penetration globally.
“We offer an excellent viewing experience in emerging markets, where connectivity is still patchy,” she said. “Our service automatically detects the bandwidth a user has and compresses the video stream accordingly so there is no lag in the viewing experience.”
Lee said that combined with PCCW Media’s experience in developing OTT services in Hong Kong, this translates to a compelling content proposition for markets in the region.
Viu will soon be launched in Malaysia, Indonesia and India, though the company declined to share a concrete timeline, with Lee promising that market debuts will be “fairly soon”.
The brand opportunity
Asked what opportunities were available for brands and advertisers interested in engaging with Viu’s audience, Lee said that many big brands recognised that viewing behaviours have changed and for certain segments, multi-screen consumption is increasing.
“Many brands also have a mandate to spend a certain amount on digital,” she added. “So what we offer is a brand-safe solution to them, that is high quality, consistent in delivery and stability to viewers."
Lee said that as a legal content service, advertisers are reassured of a brand-safe environment, especially with existing industry concerns around advertising showing up on pirated sites.
With demand for video inventory rapidly rising, the company is also confident that Viu will have no shortage of prospective brands.
According to US firm IMS Research, OTT revenues are expected to be driven by premium long-form content over the next five years, with advertising revenues forecast to increase to US$13.4 billion by 2017, compared to US$20.6 billion generated from pay-per-view and subscription OTT video services.
The platform already has many advertisers on board and is especially attractive to FMCG and luxury brands, Lee said, since the service’s audience currently skews toward the female demographic.
“This is the audience advertisers want access to,” said Lee. “We’re very on-target for growing segments such as Indonesia where even though it’s not a mature subscription market, remains a fast growing consumer market thanks to an emerging middle class – a segment that many brands want to position themselves to capture.”
Kao Beauty Care, a current advertiser, is running campaigns for its Laurier, Liese and Biore products on Viu.
Viu works with both media agencies and brands directly in terms of advertising opportunities, and at launch, the platform’s inventory offers simple preroll slots and mid-roll (when viewers pause or exit the video and then return).
“We’re in the process of developing more creative ideas and capabilities for brands,” said Lee. “But we’re currently focused on growing our reach and getting to know our audience in terms of behavioural data, which will better inform advertisers. With that insight, we believe that brands and their agency partners will be able to come up with great ideas in terms of interactive campaigns.”
Since Viu’s launch in Hong Kong, the company claims more than 500,000 downloads of its app via the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. However Lee declined to share any usage data as it was still “early days” for the service.
“We’re waiting for things to stabilise, but we’re also very conscious that advertisers want to see return on investment, so we’re definitely providing data to substantiate things and metrics such as completion rates,” she said.
Korean content to lead the way
Lee said that the decision to lead with its Korean content offering was a deliberate one, citing research conducted by the company on online viewing habits across multiple Asian markets that reveal it to be the most popular category.
“About 53 to 80 percent of viewers surveyed watch Korean dramas on a regular basis,” she added. “It’s a phenomenon that travels many markets, driven by a strong fan base and also the vision of our content partners to offer the broadcast rights for online streaming across multiple devices as they understand that the way content is consumed has changed.”
The company recently signed a pan-regional deal with four major Korean broadcasters—SBS, KBS, MBC and CJ E&M—giving Viu an exclusive window and rights to 95 percent of their latest telecast dramas and variety shows.
The agreement is touted as the first time the four broadcasters have signed such a regional agreement with an OTT service provider.
Consumers will get access to the latest episodes eight hours after it airs in Korea, complete with subtitles, along with approximately 10,000 hours of premium Asian content comprising 4,000 hours of Korean content.
Top programmes available at launch include popular shows such as Running Man, Music Bank and Inkigayo, while new dramas include titles such as Moorim School and Remember along with the soon-to-be-released Happy Ending Once Again.
Continuing with forging partnerships with local telecom partners, the company has signed up with CSL in Hong Kong and in Singapore, will soon be launching its premium service in partnership with Singtel.
In a statement, Singtel’s CEO of Consumer Singapore, Yuen Kuan Moon said that Viu complements the company’s suite of entertainment services.
“Korean dramas and variety shows have a huge appeal in Singapore,” he added. “We look forward to launching Viu’s premium service with PCC Media.”
Given the typically fraught relationships between telco operators and OTT players, Lee believes that PCCW Media’s unique status as a “hybrid beast” offers them a good foundation; holding company PCCW also has a telecommunications division.
“We understand how to work with our telco partners and how they think,” she said. “We know what they want to achieve, what the respective objectives are. And it’s a converging market that all parties want a share of.”
Lee declined to share details of the commercial structure of it’s partnerships with local operators and added that having advertising and subscription models are not mutually exclusive.
“What we’re looking to achieve is to optimise the experience for the best value for consumers,” she added.