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StarHub Fires SVOD Salvo

Singaporean telecoms and cable group StarHub has unveiled the first iteration of a new SVOD service, StarHub Go, its latest lever to boost revenue and reduce churn in a market where traditional pay-TV and broadband revenue streams are coming under greater pressure.

“For us, solving the customer experience is key,” StarHub’s head of entertainment & SmartLife, Lin Shu Fen, tells Media Business Asia.

“It has to be seamless and there has to be quality of service,” she adds. “Currently, there’s a lot of fragmentation in the market.”

The service is initially targeted at StarHub’s non-pay-TV mobile and broadband customers. It's a bid to extend the reach of subscription television while shoring up Arpu and loyalty through bundles, a strategy that is working well to counterbalance pricing pressure on linear pay-TV and fixed broadband in Singapore.

While high-speed broadband is almost ubiquitous in the Lion City, net pay-TV penetration (including households with more than one service) has levelled off at around 75% TV homes, according to estimates from Media Partners Asia.

StarHub has secured some early window Asian entertainment for StarHub Go, including concurrent telecasts for TVB dramas, as well as access to HBO and Cinemax Originals, “in a cut that the customers want to see”, to burnish the appeal of a premium tier priced at S$19.90 (US$15) a month. 

Multiscreen access is also being offered to pay-TV customers subscribing to the relevant linear channels.

A Push For More Rights

Lin wants more however, especially early window English entertainment as well as other OTT brands, which can also be added to StarHub’s core pay-TV lineup.

“For us it’s a method of bringing in content that meets the demand of our customers,” she says. 

“It has to be current,” Lin adds. “Current is a basic requirement now.”

Such moves will help curtail viewing via virtual private networks, or VPNs, she hopes.

VPN services help people sidestep territorial blocks on online content, and are becoming an increasingly popular way for many Singaporeans to watch programs from overseas.

This is partly due to local censorship rules that could hinder StarHub Go and other SVOD players, including Netflix which may arrive next year.

StarHub is also launching a Go Sports Pack, offering content from StarHub and Discovery for S$24.90 a month, as well as a basic tier programmed mainly with library entertainment, infotainment and kids content from both Asian and Western studios, for S$9.90.

All three packs are being offered at steep discounts for three months for people who sign up before the end of September, to help Lin and her team iron out any wrinkles in the fledgling service, while evaluating other areas such as packaging, pricing and the content mix.

“The key for us is the user experience,” she says.

“While it’s always good to bring certain pieces of content to the platform, it’s also the interface, how easy it is for the customers to experience the service on any screen,” she adds. 

“That’s our focus in the first year: how can we improve it, make it easy for the customers. That’s key to win in this war against piracy and VPN.”

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