Guest Column: Regulating video in the internet age: Pressing challenges, slow movement
Jan09

Guest Column: Regulating video in the internet age: Pressing challenges, slow movement

Video markets in Asia, as in other parts of the world, are being swept by a wave of commercial and technological adjustment to the rise of internet-delivered video, frequently referred to as “OTT” television.  Unfortunately, in most countries adjustment of regulatory policies by governments is way behind. Asia’s cities, in particular, are rapidly being wired for broadband connectivity.  In developing countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and India a broad digital divide has opened, with major urban areas enjoying improving connectivity and the countryside still reliant on more traditional modes of video delivery to consumers. That divide is a problem needing attention, but in the meantime urban populations, at least, are enjoying a “sweet spot” of improving broadband and adequate disposable income to pay for services consumers want.  As a result, they have become the object of a “race to serve” on the part of video providers on every scale: • Traditional pay-TV operators are upgrading their VOD offerings and broadening device access to include smartphones and tablets. • At the same time, new entrants are seeking to construct the right content offerings at the right price to win over consumers.  Major global providers (Netflix and Amazon Prime) entered Asia during 2016, and immediately were confronted with the need to adapt a global approach to Asian realities (including lower price points). • A raft of regional Asian OTT platforms have expanded their offerings (including Viu TV, Hooq, IFlix, and Catchplay), alongside a plethora of locally-oriented offerings (like Hotstar, Dittotv and Voot in India, plus Toggle, Monomaxx, Doonee, USeeTV, MyK+, etc., in Southeast Asia.) These market developments have significantly ratcheted up the pressure on governments, who are seeing more and more consumers migrate to lightly-regulated (or totally unregulated) online content supply, and away from the heavily-regulated traditional TV sectors.   Governments are in a quandary – most do not wish to impede their citizens’ access to global information sources, but at the same time they see evident challenges to long-established policies for content acceptability, broadcaster licensing, taxation, advertising etc.   At the extreme, “pirate” OTT services happily locate offshore, respect no rules and meet no obligations of any kind (not limited to copyright authorization), all the while reaping millions in subscription and/or advertising revenues.  Local content industries are crying foul. This very unbalanced competitive landscape causes deep damage to network operators, content creators at home and abroad, and investors in local economies.  In general, it isn’t possible to subject online content supply to outdated “legacy” broadcasting rules, so alternative solutions have to be considered, including self-regulatory approaches (which can gain acceptance from legitimate OTT suppliers, if not the pirate scofflaws)...

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Netflix accelerates Asia rollout
Sep10

Netflix accelerates Asia rollout

Netflix appears to be living up to its ambitious aim of launching in every significant global market by the end of 2016, announcing its next round of expansion just days after its Japanese launch, the company’s first in Asia. Netflix has said customers in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan will be able to subscribe to the streaming service from early 2016, although no details about the content available or subscription pricing have been released.  Netflix has managed to side-step some of the challenges it will face in other parts of Asia, by choosing to launch in developed economies with established broadband and 4G networks in place but attracting subscribers is unlikely to be plain sailing. In South Korea, Netflix is reported to be in talks with carriers to reduce the price of content delivery, and across the region the company will need to comply with tight content regulation, while still providing viewers with the content they want.  Like Uber, another industry-disrupter undergoing rapid global expansion, Netflix may find it has lost first-mover advantage.  Home grown content providers such as iFlix and Hooq, which counts Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers among its backers, have sprung up in Netflix’s absence, basing their offering on the subscription-based model Netflix pioneered. It is likely that Netflix’s biggest trials still lie ahead, however.  The company has been forthright about its global ambitions, and its rapid roll-out plans.  This will include launching in China, a country described as “too big to have an asterisk next to it” by Chief Content Officer Ted Sandaros and India, where broadband speeds are two times lower than the global average.  A successful launch in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan may make the kind of investment needed to succeed in these markets more palatable, but whether Netflix has bitten off more than it can chew remains to be...

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The Premier League, Sponsored by…Asia?
Feb15

The Premier League, Sponsored by…Asia?

Asia’s interest in the Premier League is at an all-time high. A population of young, increasingly affluent and increasingly connected Asian fans are following the Premier League in their hundreds of millions. At last count, the Premier League had 820 million fans in Asia, spanning the length and breadth of the continent. Put simply, the Premier League has more supporters in Asia than anywhere else. Asian interest in the Premier League is not new. What is new, however, is the fact that fans in Asia have more money to spend, and more smartphones, tablets and PCs to watch football on, than ever before. The commercial opportunities created by this fanbase have not been lost on Premier League clubs or indeed on Asian brands and broadcasters. Cash-rich brands from Asia are pouring millions of sponsorship dollars into Premier League clubs. Premier League clubs are responding to the opportunity by bolstering their commercial teams to entice brands with increasingly innovative partnership opportunities. Asian broadcasters are in total spending more on broadcast rights than those in any other continent. This report looks at what is driving these developments, highlights some of the deals that have already been done and considers the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead on both sides of the negotiating table. Shirt sponsorships Let’s start with the shirt sponsors. It is fair to say that Asian brands are rapidly buying up the “shirt real estate” of Premier League clubs. Almost a third of Premier League clubs now have an Asian brand as their main shirt sponsor. The 2013-2014 season sees players from six of the 20 Premier League clubs stepping onto the pitch with an Asian brand emblazoned on their chest. The proportion is even higher (eight out of 23) if one includes Wigan and QPR, who were relegated at the end of the 2012-2013 but who continue to have an Asian brand shirt sponsor. Contrast this with the Premier League ten years ago, in the 2003-2004 season, when just one Asian brand was involved as a shirt sponsor, in the form of Chinese telecoms company, Kejian, which sponsored Everton. Let’s look at the deals that have now been done: Club Shirt Sponsor Country Industry Aston Villa Dafabet Cagayan, Philippines Betting and gaming Cardiff City Malaysia Malaysia Tourism Chelsea Samsung Korea Electronics Everton Chang Beer Thailand Alcoholic beverages Swansea City GWFX Hong Kong Financial services Tottenham Hotspur AIA (cup, full shirt sponsor from next season) Hong Kong Insurance Queens Park Rangers* Air Asia Malaysia Airline Wigan Athletic* 12BET Cagayan, Philippines Betting and gaming *Relegated 2012-2013 A growing menu of partnership opportunities on offer The days when shirt, perimeter fence...

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Welcome to Connected Asia
Nov19

Welcome to Connected Asia

Thanks for visiting Connected Asia. Connected Asia is a blog about tech,  media, gaming and sport in Asia. Right now it’s really a work in progress but there’s more to come soon. Bear with me. Connected Asia is about how the unparalleled and explosive growth in connectivity in Asia is driving all kinds of amazing new technologies and business models in the tech, media, gaming and sports sectors. It’s also about the legal and commercial challenges this growth is creating. Connected Asia is mostly written by Matt Pollins, who’s a lawyer based in Singapore (and originally based in London). Matt is part of the team at Olswang Asia. Olswang is one of the world’s leading tech, media and telecoms law firms with offices in London, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Munich and Singapore and an international network of best friend firms. If you’re interested in any of the topics discussed here, please do get in touch. It wouldn’t be a legal blog without a disclaimer. Views expressed on Connected Asia are the author’s own and nothing on Connected Asia constitutes legal advice or creates a lawyer-client relationship. Photo of the laser show at Marina Bay Sands by erwinsoo, who takes some amazing photos of...

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