There are too many services and not enough paying customers to go round in Southeast Asia’s most developed SVOD marketplace, Thailand, where subscription revenues are projected to reach US$15 million this year.
This phase of competitive intensity can’t last long. Licensing costs are still high, especially from US studios, creating opportunities for strategic investment as well as the conditions for an impending shake-out.
The next stage of success hinges on wider distribution, to access more paying subs, as well as localization, a key battleground with English-language fare still predominant for most services.
Thai SVOD startup Doonee has around 1 million registered users. However, only 5-8% – around 50-80,000 subscribers – pay in any given month.
“Right now we need to maintain them, to keep them paying every month,” says Doonee’s CEO, Joe Suteestarpon. “That is a problem for every platform.”
Joe has recently inked a multi-year marketing and distribution pact with erstwhile rival PrimeTime, gaining access to about two million registered members. Both parties have entered a revenue-share agreement on new subs Doonee gains through the deal.
PrimeTime is repositioning itself after its former CEO, Kasidit Kolasastraseni, took up a regional innovation role with Discovery earlier this year.
Thailand, a dynamic free TV market with a fragile pay-TV ecosystem, was one of the first countries in Southeast Asia where local entrepreneurs ventured into paid OTT video.
Movie-oriented Hollywood HDTV launched in early 2014, for example, with output deals from Warner Bros, Disney, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Fox.
Since then, more domestic services have joined the fray, as well as international contenders Hooq, Iflix and Netflix, accelerating market development.
In contrast to other Southeast Asian markets, Thai consumers now have a variety of OTT packages to choose from and many ways to buy them, from daily video plans purchased by SMS to bigger and long-term broadband bundles, as complementary or add-on services.
Some services have carved out a distinct positioning. So far, Hollywood HDTV has focused on US movies. Monomaxxx, backed by fixed broadband provider Jasmine, is leveraging sister company Mono Group, which runs a free DTT channel in Thailand, to skew its offer to regional and local content.
Data allowances for 4G services have become more generous too, encouraging more video streaming over mobile networks as well as via WiFi.
Joe wants more tie-ups to follow his collaboration with PrimeTime, adding to existing IPTV partnerships Doonee has with AIS and TOT, in addition to a presence on some smart TVs.
Currently, around 60% of Doonee’s paid subs access the service via other platforms, while 40% pay Doonee directly.
“We are trying to find more local distributors to carry our service in their platform, box or existing service, to have Doonee bundled with them,” Joe tells Media Business Asia.
“Right now, we are in talks with a few distributors in the country,” he adds. “Many more deals will come within this year.”