KUALA LUMPUR — While Astro has dominated Malaysian TV sets for the better part of two decades, the emergence of players like iflix and Netflix has heated up the competition.
Enter Viu, a culmination of eight years of data analytics, focusing on local and regional content (as opposed to the “flixes” libraries which are heavy on US programming) in emerging markets.
An offshoot of mobile video downloads provider Vuclip, Viu is the company’s step towards targeted long-form content after years of providing short-form media.
Speaking to Malay Mail, Vuclip Malaysia general manager Kingsley Warner said that back in 2008, the proliferation of mobile phones indicated that video would eventually come into play in Southeast Asia and Africa, as it did in the mature markets.
The major issue was a lack of fixed broadband in emerging markets, so founder Nickhil Jakatdar and his partners came up with a video technology that loaded content regardless of how little bandwidth a user had. Called the Dynamic Adaptive Transcoding technology, this patented system is the cornerstone of Vuclip.
“They could send a video or any piece of entertainment to an end consumer on any type of device, across any kind of network — even as low as 2G,” Warner said.
With the technology to back delivery, Vuclip then started building relationships with telcos. But it was still too soon to operate with a paid-subscription model in emerging markets.
“We looked at ways of creating bouquets of content that a consumer would be prepared to pay for. As payment barriers included getting internet access or paying for data to get on Youtube, we worked with carriers to whitelist the data. So the consumer did not pay for the data, they just paid for content.
“Soon there was an open ecosystem where Vuclip was playing a part in all areas: acquiring content from content owners, working with telcos to distribute content, and then marketing it via telco partners to our consumer base,” Warner said.
Vuclip was soon netting over 100 million users globally every quarter, expanding from India to the Middle East, into Southeast Asia and then Africa. It now partners with 18 carriers and 250 content providers worldwide and continues to enter new markets every quarter.
Vuclip has been in Malaysia for three years and it also operates in Thailand, Indonesia, and Philippines.
“In the short-form space, music genres is a massive driver, as well as anything to do with entertainment and sports. Regional content like Indonesian and Bollywood music and film clips go over very well with mobile viewers.
“But then, we started seeing lots of search algorithms for Korean and Malaysian dramas as well as Indonesian sinetron (telenovelas) and United States video content like what we see on mainstream television,” Warner said.
So Vuclip started moving away from a single mobile focus to another level where consumers can watch content anywhere, anytime. It also looked at potential partners to do this with in Southeast Asia.
When Hong-Kong content provider PCCW Media Group invested in Vuclip last year, it was a prime opportunity to launch its Viu brand, focused on long-form content.
Building from the bottom-up in each market using Vuclip’s patented Dynamic Adaptive Transcoding technology and in partnerships with telcos, Viu has been launched in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia since last December and racked up over two million installs.
“Viu is a freemium model where certain content are free, and others are premium, and thus come with advertising. You don’t want ads and you want the latest content, then you pay RM10 for the premium account monthly,” he said.
Warner oversees content strategy for the region where Korean content resonates the most with users in the four markets, namely Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia, and thus, Viu has invested heavily in its relationships with all four major Korean broadcasters: KBS, SBS, MBC and CJ.
“We have the largest video-on-demand offering of Korean content in Southeast Asia, and by the end of year one with Viu (March 2017), it will total 10,000 hours.
“In year one, Viu’s total content volume would be around 15,000 hours, meaning Korean content is accounting for the bulk of volume at two-thirds.
“We have another 5,000 to 6,000 hours of non-Korean content coming in this year — telenovelas, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese, Taiwanese and Bollywood — fitting our unique selling point of having the ‘best in Asia’ content,” he said.
Malaysian users spend an average of 40-45 minutes daily on their mobile and 60 minutes daily on desktops, with consumers coming back twice a week.
“In Indonesia where we launched recently, Korean consumption has been going through the roof in the two months we have been there. The metrics are even better than Malaysia,” Warner enthused.
Regionally, one of Viu’s strongest points is being the fastest to deliver Korean content. It delivers dramas and other shows to the market within eight hours of broadcast — with English and Mandarin subtitles. And in Malaysia, within the next 12 hours, there’ll be Malay subtitles too.
“Our English subtitles are the fastest in the region — we beat the pirates, we beat Astro, we beat everybody. We are number one and sometimes we even get it out in six hours.
“Viewers who were having to wait for subtitles on pirate sites are now with Viu. For (Korean ratings hit drama) Descendants of the Sun, we had massive viewing numbers because every week we had an exclusive one-week run ahead of Astro,” he said.
Given the success seen in Viu’s four Southeast Asian markets, the company is looking to invest in other countries in the region by year-end.
“Throughout the region, the growth and proliferation of online video is leading to a huge opportunity for advertisers in video markets. Our business model provides video inventory for local advertisers, which currently advertise mainly on Youtube or Facebook. There is very little opportunity in terms of local publishers providing in-market opportunities, so we see ourselves doing that,” Warner said.