From silent films to black and white talkies, to colour motion picture films and cable TV; since the 19th century, the movie industry has had an onslaught of changes that have upended how the industry does business.
Now as the line between TV and films blur as more movies bypass the big screen entirely, the next great leap in how the world gets its entertainment has happened with the emergence of streaming platforms. For the first time, consumers are being sold content directly by entertainment companies.
Inevitably, the streaming competition is mounting globally as more players enter the industry and constantly fine-tune their strategy as they go, depending on the demographics they have their eyes on.
Viu is one such streaming platform – a Hong Kong based over-the-top (OTT) video streaming provider owned by PCCW Media Group. Using a dual-revenue model comprising subscriptions and advertising, Viu delivers content in different genres from Asia’s top content providers and original production series under ‘Viu Original’ initiative.
Since launching in Malaysia in 2016, the platform now has 41.4 million monthly active users (MAU) and is a leader in the Subscription Video-On-Demand (SVOD) market. MARKETING Magazine had the pleasure of speaking with Country Manager of Viu Malaysia, Kingsley Warner.
According to Kingsley, Viu started off with a Free Freemium Model (AVOD/SVOD) and was the first OTT player to do so in Southeast Asia.
“Now our competitors have followed us, but have not had the success we have had in Southeast Asia, because we are seen as the go-to platform for the freshest Korean content as well as local and other Asian content – shows and movies from Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Japan and many more through rich partnerships with local broadcasting networks,” Kingsley explained.
But with so many existing streaming platforms available for Malaysians, how does Viu stand out?
According to Kingsley, Viu prides itself in localisation and creating relevant content, for the local audience, that showcases their own local culture.
Viu’s efforts in creating local content for viewers has culminated in the release of seven award winning Original Malaysian shows. The first ever award winning Malaysian original series, Keluarga Baha Don, picked up the 2019 Asian Academy Creative Award for Best Comedy Programme in both the regional and final rounds.
Besides its original series, Viu has also aired Asian adaptations of popular international formats, including Endemol Shine Group’s The Bridge, CJ E&M’s Black and most recently, Warner Brothers’ Pretty Little Liars. Viu has taken these storylines and adapted them to include local elements and nuances that resonate and appeal to the Malaysian audience through stories, cast and culture.
According to Kingsley, Viu’s strong affiliation with its partners plays a significant role in acquiring the latest content before other players do.
“A recent example was the South Korean series, A World of Married Couple, which was exclusive to Viu for about one month before it was available on other platforms in Malaysia,” Kingsley said. “We’re delighted to see an increasing appetite for Asian content from audiences globally as evidenced by the sweeping Oscar wins for Parasite this year, and Viu was one of the few platforms that offered the Oscar winning content across several markets including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.”
In an effort to continually grow the platform’s regional content library, Viu has partnered with a large network of broadcasters from all across the region to acquire the most timely content for viewers (also known Viu’ers in the Viu circle), with some made available at the same time as the release in the origin country and with local subtitles.
Kingsley also added proudly that Viu has always been a brand that listens to its audience in each market, understands the trends and adapts accordingly.
”For our latest Viu Original, Pretty Little Liars, we released all 10 episodes in one-go to allow our Viu’ers to enjoy the show while they’re staying home during this period,” Kingsley said. “So far it has been one of best performing Viu Originals to date and it’s shows like this, matched with Malaysia’s great appetite for consumer offerings, that puts Viu in a strong position when talking about growth opportunities.”
Speaking of growth opportunities, we asked Kingsley what direction he foresees this online streaming market heading toward and what Viu’s future growth plan looks like.
Due to the compelling factors that determine the Malaysian market, the outlook for the OTT industry adds to the lifestyle of consumers based on the convergence of content and access (data & broadband) and with the rise of streaming platforms. According to Kingsley, Malaysians have a wide choice at the consumer level, hence providing strong growth opportunities.
According to a report published by Media Partners in Asia, Viu is one of the two platforms driving the premium demand in SEA markets. During the lockdown period that engulfed Malaysians for almost three months, Viu saw a 274% growth in average weekly minutes which proved that consumers turn to OTT platforms for entertainment.
How can local advertisers benefit from Viu’s local and global business strategy?
According to Kingsley, Viu has a quality digital base and offers one of the largest brand-safe video ad platforms with excellent targeting technology. Since the platform has penetrated the market in 16 countries, Viu is able to cater to advertisers for both local and regional campaigns, providing advertisers with the opportunity to reach a wider audience both locally and regionally.
“Placing an ad or even better, branded content is buying into the editorial integrity of the programme and reaching consumers by association with the programme’s values,” Kingsley said. “Going beyond mere product placements, we’ve worked with brands worldwide to create powerful, relevant branded Originals and with branded content, advertisers have the power to engage with consumers at their own terms and garner a number of significant benefits from having a deeper relationship with the programming and end consumers.”
As an example of branded content, Kingsley shared that for Viu’s partnership with Huawei that resulted in the award-winning Viu Original, Keluarga Baha Don, a variety of Huawei products and features were included into the production of the series and were seamlessly weaved in through various and unique placements. He added that through this partnership, Huawei was able to not only reach Viu’s viewers and generate more awareness on their products and services, but also build their brand affinity among Viu’s users.
“Another fruitful partnership of a similar arrangement was one with Malaysia’s homegrown e-wallet, Boost, for Kopitiam: Double Shot, in which we integrated Boost’s services throughout the show to showcase the features and offerings of the brand and in return we integrated content into their App environment to drive transactions across Boost,” Kingsley said.
How does Viu convince customers to subscribe, especially those who are already juggling multiple subscriptions?
“Content is king! We believe content is key to differentiating and elevating a good VOD platform to becoming a user’s preferred platform,” Kingsley said. “Diverse and consistent content offerings are key.”
For Viu, it was obvious that its audience wanted the best content from Korea, Japan, China, Thailand and the rest of Asia. Hence, to grow its regional content library, Viu partners with a large network of broadcasters from all across the region. The demand for local and relatable content with the same quality and production values of international shows continues to skyrocket.
According to Kingsley, acquiring new users isn’t the biggest bump for OTT players. Instead the real challenge lies in retaining and keeping them interested to come back for your content.
Viu’s Original series introduced in 2018 catered to that demand with the eight local Malaysian originals released to-date.
“Our focus lies in three key areas when developing a Viu Original, creating original properties based on analytics and insights of consumption on our platform; innovating new production concepts such as My Bubble Tea (Thailand), a drama leveraging youth-oriented stories and online fan fictions; and locally adapting globally acclaimed properties, such as Black (Malaysia),” Kingsley said.
These Viu Original series showcased the nuances of all the relevant cultures that were featured on the respective shows – making it more appealing to the range of relevant audiences locally and regionally.
The latest upcoming Viu Original will be the second season of The Bridge that’s set to air this June. The Bridge was produced by Viu in association with HBO Asia Originals. Loosely based on the second season of the original series, season two will pick up one year after where the story ended in season one.
Viu’ers can watch all Viu Original shows and more on the Viu app which can be downloaded for free on the App Store, Google Play, and selected smart TVs, as well as on the web at www.viu.com.