Viu, an over-the-top streaming service, which falls under the umbrella of Hong Kong-listed PCCW (Hong Kong Stock Exchange: 8-HK), is launching its services in Thailand next week in an effort to beat its regional and international competitors in the market for streaming services in Asia.
The potential for over-the-top (OTT) streaming in Asia Pacific is immense, with estimates it is worth $6.5 billion based on just subscription revenue, according to Rethink Technology Research. The industry by 2021 is set to reach $10 billion on subscriber numbers of about 200 million — which is twice today's figures.
Thailand would be Viu's 15th market since it launched 18 months ago. The OTT service says it has 6 million active users monthly across its 14 markets — which span from Hong Kong to Egypt.
The competition in the streaming services in Asia is intensifying with Netflix's (NASDAQ: NFLX) global expansion to 130 countries last year and regional competitor iFlix and HOOQ making similar bids for subscribers across Asia.
Unlike Netflix, which requires a subscription to stream movies or episodes, Viu offers free streaming with built-in advertisement. The company operates on a "freemium" model, which uses a dual revenue stream of advertising-supported and premium subscription services.
PCCW Media, the unit that runs Viu, saw a market gap for an Asian-centric online video streaming and download service.
"Asia is quite diverse in terms of its market landscape whether it is bandwidth, technology availability as well as the language — we have to localize," PCCW Media Group's Managing Director, Janice Lee, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
The media conglomerate is investing in Asian original content with a strong focus on Korean content.
"We see across the markets that we operate in, about 50 to 80 percent of viewers who watch any video online do watch Korean content, so that is quite staggering, so we have to give them what is popular," Lee said.
In a space where more OTT players are emerging and offering original content, Viu seeks to differentiate itself by tapping on the demand for Korean content by engaging South Korean celebrities. Viu recently signed a partnership with Korean celebrity Song Ji Hyo to host a beauty program, "Song Ji Hyo's Beauty Views," about the latest trends in South Korea. The partnership includes promotional media tours to engage with fans around Asia.
Korean television is very popular throughout Asia despite the fact that many cannot understand the language, and so rely on subtitles. Lee said she hopes to emulate the model of Korean content's expansion, wherein the story line and talent trumps audiences' preference for their own languages.
"In our original production whether it is produced out of India or produced out of Hong Kong, we aspire that our content will also become popular in [other] markets," Lee told CNBC.
Lee remains optimistic about the potential of OTT streaming — despite the stiff competition. Viu's Thailand Facebook page has more than 800,000 likes even though the service hasn't launched yet. Lee said she considers that a testament to the demand in the country.
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