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Round-Up: Astro, Alibaba/TVB + More



Astro, Malaysia’s biggest pay-TV operator, has enjoyed a solid start in its latest financial year.

Sales, Ebitda and net profit grew 6%, 7% and 31% Y/Y respectively for the company’s Q1 period (April 2015 quarter).

This year, monthly pay-TV Apru is likely to top RM100 (US$28.6), after climbing almost 2% Y/Y to RM99 in Q1. The company is targeting 50,000 pay-TV net adds this year, despite a decline of 5,000 in Q1.

Astro’s Njoi prepaid platform meanwhile now has more than 1 million customers, with 400,000 more expected for FYE Jan. 2016.

Across the business, management are targeting 80% multichannel penetration (ie pay-TV plus Njoi) by 2018, versus ~65% presently.

In the future, Astro is also looking to launch a standalone OTT service.

Its current multiscreen offering, Astro On-The-Go, is largely an authenticated product with about 700,000 active users who spend almost 100 minutes a week on the service.

Of these users, 60% of are Astro subs while 40% don’t have a linked account.

The company recently added a host of new sports channels to Astro On-The-Go.



Southeast Asia-oriented SVOD platform, iFlix, has announced a digital distribution deal with the Philippines’s largest telecoms company, PLDT.

PLDT is also an investor in iFlix, buying a convertible interest in the company, partly as a countermeasure against Globe Telecom, the Philippines second-biggest telco which is closely aligned with iFlix competitor Hooq via Singtel and also has separate consumer video offerings through a strategic partnership with Disney.

PLDT will offer iFlix as a specially priced value-add across its fixed-line and mobile broadband platforms, while bundling the SVOD service with some high-end broadband packages at no extra cost. Data used to stream iFlix content will not be counted against broadband data caps.

iFlix has made a decent debut in Malaysia but needs to scale its offering (priced at around US$2 a month) and raise more capital to compete in the SVOD land grab ahead of more pan regional competition in Southeast Asia in 2H 2015.

Content providers are keen to slice and dice windows to serve up fare to SVOD providers in a bid to ensure that global OTT giant Netflix does not become the de facto choice for SVOD.



Alibaba is teaming up with Hong Kong’s leading broadcaster TVB to co-produce TV series and movies for the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The news was announced by Liu Chunning, president of Alibaba’s digital entertainment arm, which is leveraging Alibaba’s various movie and video platform investments, including its entertainment-related crowd-funding product Yulebao.

Yulebao invested RMB510 million (US$83 million) in Chinese movies last year.

In November 2014, Alibaba also spent ~US$250 million for an 8.1% stake in Huayi Brothers, a TV and movie production company, with an agreement for Huayi Brothers to use the Yulebao fundraising platform.



Japanese broadcaster Fuji Television is producing two original series for Netflix, which is launching in Japan this fall.

The two series, a new season of Japanese reality TV show Terrace House and serial drama Atelier (Japanese title: Underwear), will premieron Netflix with Fuji Television and Netflix co-branding.

“We feel that Japanese content is paramount in order for all of Japan to enjoy our service,” said Greg Peters, president of Netflix Japan.

“We hope to use the opportunities from this project to transmit Japan’s amazing content to our customers in Japan and across the globe,” he added.

The Netflix deal is in line with Fuji Television’s multimedia distribution strategy outlined in previous plans. After first window distribution on Netflix, both series will also be carried by Fuji TV On Demand (FOD) and broadcast television.

“We have taken this bold initiative as we firmly believe it is a meaningful and significant endeavor in the context of the future of the television business,” said Toru Ota, senior executive managing director at Fuji Television Network.

“These two new shows will allow us to demonstrate to the world the high quality of our content and production standard. These are just some of the reasons behind our decision to undertake this project,” he added.



Hong Kong-based satellite operator AsiaSat has reorganized senior management teams to focus on key accounts after a challenging year that saw a 25% Y/Y decline in operating profits.

“The challenges we faced in a competitive market will continue into 2015,” said Sherwood Dodge, AsiaSat’s chairman.

“With the launches of AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8 in 2014, we expanded our geographic reach and our product offerings,” he added. “These enhancements will enable us to better serve our key markets of South Asia and China.” Under the new structure, Philip Balaam heads both sales and business development teams in an expanded role as VP for sales and business development.

Sabrina Cubbon has been named VP of marketing and global accounts.

“With this new structure, we will better utilize our resources and more clearly focus our efforts in the market,” said William Wade, AsiaSat president and CEO.



Beijing cable TV operator Gehua CATV Network has announced plans to create a consortium to help launch its fledgling paid streaming service on a national scale.

Gehua CATV will hold a 62% stake in the proposed RMB500 million (US$80.5 million) venture, dubbed China Television and Cinema Operating Company.

China Film Group, a state-owned movie producer and distributor, and China Broadcasting Network, a state-backed cable network launched last year to promote convergence, will each take a 10% stake.

Hangzhou Ali Venture Capital, an Alibaba subsidiary, and other participating companies will each have 6%.

The plan involves creating a holding company in cooperation with 30 cable TV operators with 20 million subs across China.

In return, the cable networks will receive a revenue share while becoming more equipped to compete against rival video streaming services.

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