Time to knuckle down on execution
First comes the technology, then comes the scramble to develop new services around the technology before someone else does.
Within hours of SingTel announcing its ground-breaking new subscription service, offering popular American shows in Singapore soon after they have aired in the US, rival StarHub provided the press with a quick response, saying its VOD offer is due very soon, and, by the by, some of its channels are available on mobile, broadband and ordinary TV.
The next few years promise to be pretty busy for the region’s TV companies, who need to close the gap between what they have to offer and the different ways people can watch TV.
Current on-demand services in Asia tend to be rental models through TVs and computers at home. Broadcasters however should also keep an eye on the development of out-of-home kiosks – starting to appear in places such as Singapore and Shanghai – where people can download content straight onto portable devices, bypassing many of the obstacles slowing the development of sell-through models in the home.
“Electronic sell-though has yet to take off, but I believe it will,” says Ross Pollack, regional SVP of distribution for Sony Pictures Television International. “It just needs to move out into the field a little bit.” These kiosks could provide ad-free content, or ad-supported fare at a cheaper price, Pollack adds. It all depends on the market.
Sony is already testing out different on-demand business models, with ad-supported services on the go in Korea and subscription VOD up and running in Singapore, learning how to manage windows, balance the mix of archive and fresh content, and encourage sampling to convert users.
One key lesson? “We soon find out we have to tailor our approach,” Pollack points out, even for markets that are ostensibly similar. Unlike say, Latin America, where – with a few tweaks here and there – one model can be developed for the whole region, the mix of relevant technical, economic and social issues in Asia means that each market demands its own bespoke model.
Moreover, finding out what works in each market is only half the battle, with broadcasters needing to promote the service with broadband and telco firms that have never marketed content before. Sony, for example, is developing three-, six-, nine- and 12-month plans post-launch, not just to sell its services, but to provide support to its partners as well. “It’s not a problem for us, but we are dedicating more resources than we initially anticipated,” Pollack adds. “It’s a learning experience.”
There’s no secret about what will separate the winners and losers in a multi-platform future. It’s simply a matter of figuring out the different ways people around the region like to watch TV, and developing services that suit the market. Following through on the execution, however, is going to take a bit of work.
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