Jason Wincuinas
Oct 28, 2014

TV still the 'big time', but...

HONG KONG - As Casbaa hosts its annual conference here, the organisation is about to release a report that shows the number of multichannel TV homes in Asia Pacific has grown past 500 million. But that doesn't mean TV executives should feel safe.

TV still the 'big time', but...

The 500 million figure makes the region the largest single slice of viewers in any region in the world, the organization claims. And the continued expansion comes despite the well-known digital pressures that have every content-delivery business worried about the future.

Combining information from SNL Kagan, MCN, SARFT, CSM, TAM India, SKY, Gallup Pakistan, Starhub, Kantar, Nielsen, Astra, Astro, Video Research and TmNS, as well as its own data, Casbaa has put together a detailed regional study that demonstrates how linear TV is still growing here in Asia. 

Yes, video streaming over the internet is building momentum, but regional cable and satellite subscriptions still shot up a nice nation-sized portion since 2013, increasing from 468 million homes to 501 million. And that follows a trend that has seen total subscriptions more than double over the past 10 years. It's important to note that the report includes viewers in China, who although technically pay-TV subscribers, pay far less than subscribers elsewhere.

Still, the numbers should be good news to marketers of tech gadgets and travel especially. As the Casbaa report highlights, an Ipsos Affluent Survey shows a definite correlation between Asia’s TV subscriptions and a household’s propensity to “travel more, purchase new technology, and keep up-to-date with new trends”. 

Pay-TV viewers also score high on metrics of being business decision-makers, owning big-ticket items like automobiles and having spending capacity with platinum credit cards. The same people were also early adopters of smartphones or tablets. And as a share of media for reaching such consumers, TV still holds the largest single stake. No other platform can yet deliver the same audience size and affluence.

But you can also find areas for future concern. Projections published in the report from IPG Mediabrands show TV’s overall media share shrinking, though only by 1 per cent, over the next five years—both globally and in APAC. The same charts show the internet’s share growing as much as 10 per cent in APAC. Print, radio and outdoor are still the ones to lose the most in these projections, which isn’t surprising.

But that doesn’t mean TV should feel secure in its position. Consumption of online video is also growing in these same number sets, indicating that people do want to consume the medium on their own terms, not when and where content suppliers might want to deliver it.


The music industry makes for a cautionary parallel. Billboard, the industry’s barometer publication, reported this August that new album sales fell again, down to a level not seen since 1991. Technology is advancing rapidly and it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ video will be as easy to cut and paste as digital music files (and within the next five years is certainly conceivable).

The growth in Asia’s pay-TV subscriptions is notable, but it is worth comparing to overall growth in the region. The IMF still pegs Asia as the world leader for economic expansion, so expect to see industries like pay-TV grow along with that. It’s logical. But consider data from the Newspaper Association of America. Its charting of trade revenue from 1950 to 2011 also shows growth right up until the precipitous drop that took the industry from a peak of just under US$70 billion in revenue at about 2001 back down to the 1950 base of near $20 billion. The story has been essentially the same all around the world. There isn’t a publisher who hasn’t felt the digital pinch. Recent reports show newspapers in the US have started to level off their losses and even gain a bit here and there, but again that’s growth from a base that’s over 50 years old, after significant cutbacks and layoffs. The chart looks like a cliff and many business have already fallen off the steep side of it.  

TV advertisers and providers alike, would do well to study Casbaa’s Asia Pacific Multichannel Advertising 2015 report as soon as it become available to start planning a strategy for when the world becomes more digital (and mobile) and consumers, not media properties, set the agenda. TV is still the big time, and the good news is there’s still time to learn from the path of music and print as far as adjusting to the times. Because when revenue falls, it falls fast.

Source information for image at top of article (full-size image here): Ipsos Affluent Survey Asia Pacific Q3-Q4 2013 Average Base Index: 100. Bangkok or Hong Kong or Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur or Manila or Singapore or Taipei or Seoul or Sydney or Melbourne or India

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