OTT video streaming goes large as HKTV gets small
Whatever else you can say about 2015, it was a banner year for OTT video streaming services. And you can probably blame Netflix for that.
Netflix has had eyes on the APAC market for some time, and launched services this year in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. But local players were already bracing themselves to compete with Netflix on its own terms. By the time Netflix launched services in Australia in late March, it already had competition in the form of Presto, Stan, Quickflix and Foxtel Play.
Meanwhile, Singtel kicked off the year by announced the formation of HOOQ, a partnership with Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros Entertainment to launch a multi-screen OTT video platform that would be progressively rolled out across Singtel’s footprint in Asia-Pacific. So far this year it’s gone live in the Philippines, Thailand, and India.
In Malaysia, local investment firm Catcha Group announced in March it was teaming with Evolution Media Capital (a merchant bank focused on the media, sports, and entertainment industries) to launch a new subscription video-on-demand service across key Southeast Asian markets this year. The service, branded as “iflix”, went live in Malaysia and the Philippines in June.
Ironically, for all the excitement over OTT video services, one company that may not be riding that wave is HKTV - the TV channel masterminded by entrepreneur Ricky Wong.
HKTV made a major splash in the Hong Kong television market in 2014 by not only streaming its programs online (if only by necessity, being denied a free-to-air broadcast license and seeing its mobile TV plans thwarted), but by generating a lot of buzz with new content that looked fresh and innovative compared to the formulaic fare on offer from broadcasting giant TVB.
But despite some impressive viewer statistics when HKTV first started streaming in November 2014, the numbers declined after the novelty wore off. Moreover, HKTV hasn’t made enough money to offset its content-production costs. In February, HKTV halted plans for further TV production. In June, the company issued a profit warning, saying it expected a “a very significant increase” in losses for the first half of 2015, because revenue from licensing of program rights and advertising income was not enough to cover program costs.