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14 April 2016

PCCW Viu hits 1.2m subs; South East Asia OTT saga deepens 

There is an exciting ongoing battle for OTT video subscribers in South East Asia, intensified by the recent entrance of Netflix into the region, but this week PCCW Media has announced strong growth as its Viu OTT video platform has hit 1.2 million downloads in Hong Kong since it launched six months ago.

The free iOS and Android app offers content from Korea, Japan, mainland China, and Taiwan, and in Hong Kong it includes traditional Chinese subtitling within around 4 hours after the show was first broadcast. Viu offers around 10,000 hours of premium Asian VoD content with 4,000 of that being Korean drama and variety shows telecast from SBS, KBS, MBC and CJ E&M. PCCW claims that recent Korean drama series Descendants of the Sun is “sweeping across Asia and creating mega excitement.”

Viu started as Vuclip, which was acquired by PCCW already with 8 million subscribers across 10 markets, and following its launch in Hong Kong in October 2015, the Viu app had 500,000 downloads by the end of 2015, ranking number one on the App Store and Google Play Store charts for free apps.

Viu is a freemium service in the sense that the basic levels are free when bundled with an MNO service, with premium add-ons – the majority of services are now adopting the sensible model of having both free and paid versions. “By adopting a freemium model, Viu OTT will get revenue from advertisers for the massive support from viewers, along with subscription income from users who want to upgrade their service to access more advanced features,” said Janice Lee, Managing Director of PCCW Media.

Viu is battling it out in South East Asia with Hooq, owned by Singapore Telecom and Sony, with both services recently spreading their wings into Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines – both claiming significant wins in landing Korean TV dramas for distribution outside of South Korea. Netflix has just launched in these regions and recently added support for Korean and simplified and traditional Chinese languages. Last month, Sky entered the battlefield by grabbing a large shareholding in iFlix, a rapidly growing South East Asian OTT video provider – a deal which seems to be Sky’s attempt to get in place before Netflix seizes any significant foothold.

The likes of Viu and Hooq put up a good challenge to Netflix in terms of cheap pricing and plentiful portfolios of local content, but with Netflix’s links to Hollywood, it’s difficult to envisage how either of these Asian OTT services can act as distributors to entice in any major US studios. The outcome may well be that they have to partner with a US company such as HBO in order to offer up any realistic contest to Netflix.

“Reaching 1.2 million downloads of Viu is indeed a milestone which is very encouraging to our team. It is reflective of the wide support of our app among consumers. Searching and accessing entertainment online through mobile devices is a dominant trend today so I have every confidence that Viu’s success will be replicated in other markets. Our vision is to provide consumers with the best entertainment befitting their lifestyle,” Lee added.

From the acquisition of Vuclip, PCCW adopted its patented adaptive streaming technology to tackle bandwidth limitations, and PCCW also uses a recommendation engine from ThinkAnalytics, and an Edgeware CDN.

There were some 494 million active OTT video viewers in Asia Pacific in 2015, according to Media Partners Asia analysts.