China blocks iTunes and iBooks
Apr29

China blocks iTunes and iBooks

Apple is facing new challenges in China. Its iTunes Movies and iBooks Store were blocked earlier this month in what was a surprise move, given that it had only been six months since these services were made available to consumers in China. So why the apparent change in China’s attitude to Apple’s online services, and what does it mean for foreign companies in the content industry? What we can say is that this appears to be part of a broader move by the Chinese authorities to control the content accessed by Chinese consumers – and particularly foreign content. China’s new online publishing regulations, which came into effect in March 2016, have caused widespread concern among foreign companies because, in addition to greater conditions for foreign involvement in online content distribution and joint ventures, they appeared to require all online content to be stored in servers located in China. Under the new regulations, internet content publishers are also required to ensure that their content “promotes core socialist values”. China’s internet regulations are known to provide substantial room for regulator interpretation and the bigger question has always been enforcement. With this move, it looks like the authorities are laying down a marker to indicate that they will be ramping up enforcement against foreign companies. The stakes, of course, are high. China is Apple’s second largest market after the US and Apple has, until now, largely managed to escape the Chinese regulatory scrutiny that has hindered its international competitors in China. So what does this mean for international companies in the content distribution industry? It means that they need to think even more carefully about their broader China strategy and the structure of their local partnership arrangements. As part of this, those foreign companies should be looking to their local partners for guidance on navigating what is becoming an increasingly complex and unpredictable regulatory framework. But above all, it confirms that even the largest and most influential of international companies will not escape China’s growing focus on internet regulation. Indeed, it was almost certainly because of Apple’s size and influence that it was...

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Vietnam tightens grip on pay TV
Feb29

Vietnam tightens grip on pay TV

Vietnam has passed a broad new pay TV decree which will have a significant impact on foreign channels. The decree, which was issued on 18 January 2016, governs the management of information contents, quality, rates, provision and use of radio and television services in Vietnam, as well as the reception of foreign television channels directly from satellites in Vietnam. The implications of this broad new decree will take some time to digest (particularly for the foreign channels affected). In this post, Eric Lai briefly summarises the key provisions of the decree. Greater content control Broadcasters of foreign programs on pay radio and TV services in Vietnam must ensure that their contents are “healthy and appropriate to Vietnamese culture” and do not infringe the country’s press rules. These requirements are not further expanded upon in the decree but the terminology (“healthy and appropriate”) leaves substantial room for interpretation and, one expects, enhanced content control. Foreign content capped at 30% The decree imposes a total cap on local content, capping foreign channels at 30% of the total number of channels. Localisation Foreign content must to be edited and translated by a licensed agency, except for live reports of sport matches, opening and closing ceremonies of regional and global sport tournaments. Companies also need to register with the authorities through authorized agents, and fulfil certain financial obligations. Local advertising The contents must not contain pre-inserted advertisements from abroad. Advertisements, if any, must be produced in Vietnam, in accordance with local regulations, and subject to edits by authorized local agencies. Local production For joint productions, authorized domestic content producers are allowed to select partners incorporated under Vietnam’s laws to collaborate to produce in part or in whole programs or program channels. With thanks to Eric...

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Get ready for the IMDA
Jan18

Get ready for the IMDA

We live in an era of technology and media convergence – and Singapore has just announced regulatory convergence. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) – the two bodies responsible for communications and media respectively – today confirmed that they will be merged into a new entity,  the Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA), from 1 April 2016. A new Government Technology Organisation (GTO) will also be set up by 1 April 2016 to lead the Government’s digitisation and Smart Nation efforts. What drove the move? This step to bring together the IDA and MDA as a regulator and promoter of the converging infocomm and media space appears to be both logical and necessary. The media and technology sectors are already converged, with new technologies and business models testing the boundaries of what is tech and what is media. A great recent example is new market entrant Netflix, which arguably sits somewhere between technology platform and TV network. And consumers are voting with their feet – they no longer draw a distinction between a “technology” service and a “media” service but, rather, think in terms of platforms, services and content. Put simply, this move brings the approach to regulation into line with the way that businesses and consumers now see the world. What are the objectives? The expressed objectives of this move are as follows: The IMDA aims to capitalize, develop and regulate the converging infocomm and media space and to implement last August’s launch of the Infocomm Media Masterplan through 2025; The privacy watchdog, Personal Data Protection Commission will be part of the new IMDA to promote and regulate data in Singapore; and The GTO will be tasked to lead the digital transformation in the public sector (in the areas of robotics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and big data) to support Singapore’s Smart Nation vision. What does it mean for tech and media companies? At first glance this looks like good news for tech and media companies, and particularly those whose business interests span both technology and media, since they will only have to deal with one regulator rather than two. Still, it is very early days, and we will be looking more closely at the implications for tech and media companies in Singapore over the coming weeks and...

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Bloggers beware: New ad rules for Singapore
Dec11

Bloggers beware: New ad rules for Singapore

New guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) will apply to online blogs and social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. ASAS is currently consulting on Singapore’s first Digital and Social Media Advertising Guidelines, following countries such as the UK and Australia, where guidelines are already in force. Under the proposed guidelines, online advertisers will have to comply with the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP) already applicable to print advertising, and adhere to the best practice standards identified for online marketing. These standards are likely to include: clearly identifying sponsored content, and ensuring it can be easily distinguished from personal opinions and editorial content; disclosing any commercial relationships in straightforward, plain English at least as large (or as loud) as the content the disclosure relates to; and making sure marketing communications aimed at children are age appropriate. The full guidelines can be viewed on the ASAS website. Agencies, brands, social media platforms and bloggers have a limited window to provide their feedback. ASAS will be accepting responses to the consultation until 5pm on January 8 2016 by email to asas@case.org.sg, or by post to ASAS at 170 Ghim Moh Road, Ulu Pandan Community Building, #05-01, Singapore...

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Apple Music and the outlook for streaming in Asia
Jun09

Apple Music and the outlook for streaming in Asia

Apple has finally joined the music streaming party by launching Apple Music. We’re told that it will be available in at least 100 countries, including some in Asia. Much has already been written about the impact it will have on the streaming market in Europe and the US – but what is the outlook for music streaming in Asia? No international or regional players own the music streaming market – yet Apple Music will not be entering a crowded market – music streaming services are still relatively new in many countries and there are no international or regional players who have yet secured a commanding position. Although Spotify was founded as far back as 2006 in Europe, it didn’t launch in Asia until April 2013, and it is still yet to launch in several major Asian territories including Thailand, Japan and Korea. Pandora may have an estimated 80 million users but it is still limited to the US, Australia and New Zealand, so it has no Asia presence and is still far from being a truly international offering. Tidal is perhaps somewhere in the middle – it is currently available in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – which again means it is unavailable in a number of significant Asian markets. The music streaming market in Asia is rather more fragmented at a country level, with a number of hugely successful national sites, such as MelOn in Korea, Recochoku in Japan and Alibaba-owned Xiami in China. To succeed in these markets, international services such as Apple Music cannot simply roll out their US or European offerings and expect the users to follow – they will need to localise substantially to meet the expectations of local users. The biggest competitor of all will be piracy Analysts focusing on Europe and the US have looked in great detail at whether and to what extent Apple will be able to convert users from Pandora and Spotify to Apple Music In Asia, however, the bigger question is whether Apple will be able to convert users from pirate services. Piracy in Asia remains rampant. If one takes Singapore as an example – where 7 out of 10 young Singaporeans confess to actively engaging in piracy – legitimate streaming services face two key challenges. First, how do you convert users who are accustomed to accessing all of the music they want for free and with few perceived repercussions. And second, even if you do convert those users, how do you convert them at a price point that is profitable for the service, the labels and the artists, when the users are used to a price point of…er…free. Undoubtedly the launch of services such as Apple Music in the music space and Netflix, iFlix and...

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Netflix, HOOQ and a big week for TV in Asia
Feb09

Netflix, HOOQ and a big week for TV in Asia

It was a big week for online TV in Asia. Last Friday, Singtel, Sony and Warner Bros. made a big move into online streaming with the launch of HOOQ. The OTT streaming service, rumoured for some months, is already being viewed as a pre-emptive strike against Netflix. On Wednesday of last week, Netflix duly responded, with its first foray into the Asian market, announcing the launch of Netflix in Japan. 30 January: HOOQ is announced HOOQ is a joint venture between Singtel, Sony and Warner Bros. The service is set to carry a substantial library from launch (thanks in large part to the catalogues of its joint venture partners, Sony and Warner Bros.), with Hollywood blockbusters such as Spider-Man and Harry Potter and TV shows such as Friends and Gossip Girl. The joint venture went to great length, however, to explain that there would be local and regional content, with users promised “an extensive selection of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and Japanese movies and TV series”. A key theme from the CASBAA Convention in Hong Kong this year was the importance of local content and the joint venture seems to recognise that international streaming services will need to localise substantially to succeed in Asia. As for Singtel’s role in this – it provides the regional footprint through its group companies across the region. Singtel will not be the only telco in the region looking to move into streaming (many have launched domestic services already) but it may just be the only player right now with the regional scope to deliver a successful region-wide service (its corporate group has half a billion mobile customers spanning from Singapore to Australia). The service will be rolled out progressively as early as the first quarter of 2015, with Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Thailand being the initial launch territories. 11 February: Netflix makes its first Asia move Netflix has been notable by its absence in Asia (putting aside the large number of subscribers who reportedly access the service via unlicensed VPNs). Last year, it finally announced plans to launch in Australia and New Zealand – but until Wednesday, there was still no word on Asia. That changed when it announced that it would be launching in Japan from Autumn 2015. As with HOOQ, the announcement also confirmed Netflix’s intention of localising its offering, with “a strong selection of Japanese TV series and films”. Japan makes a lot of sense as a first move into Asia, given its well-developed technology infrastructure and 36 million broadband homes. We can, however, be certain that this will not be Netflix’s only Asia move. It has already raised a few eyebrows...

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