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12 May 2022

Mola TV trading video for blockchain in UK, discredits anti-piracy

Faultline’s call with Mola TV this week was full of surprises. The Indonesian OTT video and pay TV outlet is best known for snatching soccer viewing rights away from the status quo, in a similar disruptive vein to DAZN, although – unbeknown to many – Mola TV also has a budding blockchain-based events business and plans to enter the gaming space.

Mirwan Suwarso, Mola TV’s official representative, cut a refreshingly honest character from the outset – illuminating us to the company’s content roadmap while throwing considerable shade over the state of the anti-piracy market.

Pre-briefing, we head over to the Mola TV website for a nose around, only to be met with the message, ‘Our services are under improvement at the moment’ – which seemed like an apt place to start.

“We’ve pretty much given up on the UK website,” Suwarso admits, without hesitation. “How do you compete with something like BBC iPlayer? It’s fantastic and it’s free.”

Mola TV announced its operational expansion into the UK and Italy in October 2021, but things have not gone quite to plan from a direct to consumer streaming perspective.

This website apathy should not be mistaken for a total exit from the UK market, however, as Mola TV has identified the UK as the perfect place for its blockchain-based activities.

While Mola TV’s decentralized operations are currently focused on events, the company is exploring how blockchain can be complementary to its core video streaming business.

The idea of simplifying the delivery chain while achieving scalability via blockchain is something that still sounds too good to be true, yet NFTs have flown out of the blocks post-Covid, as a way of commodifying digital assets such as video and music files, that are uploaded to a blockchain where copies are recorded on the digital ledger.

These NFTs can be purchased with cryptocurrency, without the purchaser owning the original file, so artists retain copyright. Unlike cryptocurrencies, however, the totally unique nature of NFTs means they are not interchangeable with any other asset.

By making blockchain-based decentralized delivery networks more widely available to content creators and media partners, organizations like Mola TV will be able to reduce overheads in areas such as transcoding and delivery fees, but also create new monetization opportunities in areas of advertising, ticketing, and merchandise.

Skeptics are still in abundance in the TV ecosystem, Faultline being one.

Yet it’s for this reason Suwarso can claim confidently that Mola TV has no proper competitors, holistically speaking, because a rival like DAZN doesn’t have a blockchain-based events business to fall back on, when streaming live sports fails to make any money.

Suwarso warns this is a long game. The blockchain-based systems being developed in-house at Mola TV should eventually be built into the video platform by Q4 2023. A lot of experimentation is needed in the meantime before this long-term vision becomes a blockchain reality, if at all, and mistakes will be made along the way.

A more pressing matter for Faultline’s typical audience, however, concerns Suwarso’s outright dismissal for spending big on anti-piracy.

This was particularly pertinent given the huge levels of piracy seen in Mola TV’s motherland or Indonesia, as well as the fact Mola TV has contracted Verimatrix for multi-DRM, a deal which Suwarso sees as purely a contractual requirement of studios, rather than an organically proactive decision from the Mola TV team based on promises that deploying multi-DRM will generate genuine revenue savings.

Suwarso is far too thick-skinned from his experience in the futile fight against content pirates in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Indonesia is among the world’s fastest growing internet markets, as well as being one of the world’s largest non-paying markets. “We will find a way not to pay,” said Suwarso.

Despite this, he reveals that Mola TV spends around $9 million a year on combatting piracy – but not on technology, on deterrence.

“We laugh at the English Premier League (EPL) when it claims to help with piracy. It’s no thanks to the rights holders we have to do everything ourselves. UFC does a way better job of anti-piracy than the EPL,” continues Suwarso’s tirade on anti-piracy.

He doesn’t let up, telling us that while the Apple Store is basically void of piracy, you might as well forget about the Google Play Store.

As well as Verimatrix, Mola TV works with Viaccess-Orca, but we understand this deal is for video player and ad insertion capabilities, although some security is likely to baked in given the French firm’s content protection roots.

Akamai is Mola TV’s preferred CDN, while Ateme also supplies some content delivery components via its Anevia CDN assets, along with a full suite of Titan encoders and packagers for live 4K UHD streams of EPL soccer matches.

Harmonic was first in the door for video compression at Mola TV, serving up its VOS360 cloud streaming infrastructure for UHD HDR streaming of live sports. The SaaS technology simplifies stages of the media processing and delivery chain, and Harmonic’s EyeQ AI-based encoding technology improves streaming quality for Mola TV’s streaming service.

We learned that Mola TV has an in-house recommendations engine and handles subscription services internally too, putting these components in pole position for its future blockchain video integration endeavors.

While the emphasis of our conversation is on streaming, as is Mola TV’s marketing, we should note that legacy DTH is big business for Mola TV. It currently has over 10 million linear TV viewers in Indonesia through partnerships with operators, and is on the cusp of expanding into Malaysia and Singapore through telco partnership. The D2C OTT business, meanwhile, is currently on around 1 million active users.

After three years in the OTT market, you can sense subtle tones of disappointment about where Mola TV is today in terms of global expansion. There is also a more prevailing sense of optimism that Mola TV has identified the future, even if it is way too early to tell.

Founded in late 2018, Mola TV picked up EPL broadcasting rights in Indonesia as well as a treasure trove of local soccer content, with financial backing from parent company Polytron (a subsidiary of Indonesian manufacturing giant Djarum Group), before the platform launched officially in Q3 2019.

Arriving to market so soon before the pandemic was both a blessing and a curse, as Mola TV was sent back to the drawing board with all live sports placed on lockdown. The on-demand catalog was bulked up with kids content and the platform also branched into music, contributing to a huge ranging spectrum of audiences.

We mentioned DAZN earlier as a key competitor, but Suwarso doesn’t see it this way. “We have sold some content to DAZN – we don’t fight for rights, we create our own rights,” he refutes.

By this, he means Mola TV has ambitions of becoming a largely self-sufficient original production outfit. It has full production capabilities and studio assets in place, investing strongly in local soccer content as well as MMA, which Suwarso believes is the world’s fastest growing sport.

With MMA, Mola TV is just dipping its toes into the Italian marketplace. This immediately evokes nightmares of DAZN’s Serie A streaming calamity. Suwarso claims Mola TV has the streaming infrastructure in place to avoid a repeat banana skin situation, pointing to having up to 8 million concurrent streams for the Indonesian national soccer team’s matches, which it took away from FTA, to much initial outrage.

He assures us that Indonesia’s internet infrastructure is far worse than Italy’s, although mobile-first viewing is more prevalent in Indonesia, while the big screen is the first port of call for live sports in Italy.

Seeing some traction in streamed events with interactive features such as fan Q&A sessions, this segued Mola TV into distributed ledgers and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), having conducted its first fully NFT ticketed event in London in March, which it sold out.

This is part of the new Mola Chill Club, an NFT-based membership where subscribers can access exclusive NFT tickets for concerts with VIP perks up for grabs, such as backstage passes and flight tickets.

Faultline’s skepticism about the credibility of NFTs as a standalone business within the video streaming landscape were met with comments about some of Mola TV’s recent NFTs tripling in value. It remains to be seen how this will be factored into Mola TV’s live and on-demand OTT video offering, possibly as a rewards-based token scheme. Although the fact that the UK streaming website is being phased out in place of a blockchain-based events business has made us think twice.