15 January 2016

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Welcome to News Views, CASBAA’s news round-up culled from sources across the industry for the week ending Jan 15th. Curated by CASBAA, News Views keeps you in the loop. We always value your feedback, so tell us what you think!

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Christopher Slaughter

Christopher Slaughter

CEO

At the risk of changing this newsletter’s name from “News Views” to "Netflix Views”, we’ve got to acknowledge that since they flipped the switch on (almost) every market in the region last week, we’ve been talking about very little else, actually. Hot off the presses is the company’s announcement that it will stop allowing subscribers to access the service via VPNs, proxies or “unblockers” (Variety says it’s going to “..bring the hammer down…” which seems a bit hyperbolic), but it will remain to be seen how effective that will be. Meantime, John has put together a pretty comprehensive overview of how Netflix’s “Gotcha!” launch has been received in various territories here in Asia… take it away, Mr. Medeiros!
John Medeiros

John Medeiros

Chief Policy Officer

So, what does it mean to launch a service in 130 countries? They sit in Silicon Valley, open the gusher, and the sweet crude flows all through the global network, just like that? Maybe that happens (for a while) in a technical sense, but in a commercial sense you still need access to customers and to their payments and the governments that you’re flipping off might have something to say about that. Here’s a short summary of some reactions around our region:
Hong Kong: Even in this relatively uncensored international city, it was immediately noted that Netflix’s content offering was not absolutely compelling, as local consumers enjoy a mix that includes local content, (“much Netflix content is ‘niche’ given ordinary Hong Kong people’s tastes”) and besides that, the good bits were lacking from the library, as series like “Orange is the New Black” had already been exclusively licensed to other distributors.

India: Reaction was rather subdued, as most noted that compared to India’s low prices for content, Netflix’s rates seemed very high, and could “alienate the middle class which is the main category driving consumption.” And at least one local provider lowered its prices, accentuating the problem for Netflix.

Indonesia: The film censorship board had fun binge-watching the movies on Netflix and then said they should be blocked. The Minister of Communications didn’t address the censorship issue, but said Netflix had to open an office, get a license and pay taxes.

Malaysia of course is known for its strict content controls, and there, the responsible Minister said even if Netflix doesn’t require a license, they have to follow the content codes (and the government is mulling requiring them to get a license, too). Meanwhile one eager content censor offered a candid view: “We’ve got to start blocking Netflix now, he said, “before people start to like these shows.” Another worry also cropped up: if a lot of people start watching Netflix, bandwidth demand could overwhelm existing internet infrastructure.

In Singapore, it took only one day for the local media to zero in on the “Tilted Playing Field” problem posed by “outdated” media laws that “subject local…content distributors to far stricter regulations than overseas players that provide content online.” Singapore-based media journal “Content Asia” had a GREAT commentary on this, in their most recent e-newsletter. Janine Stein justly decried “a situation where companies on the ground are held to local standards and Netflix is given free reign with its 0000 default pin code.” Janine admits it’s not easy for governments to balance conflicting agendas as the world changes around us, but she hit out at some regulators for “effectively giving the finger to programmers (and platforms) in the region who have followed the rules, been respectful, paid their taxes, created jobs, trained people, and contributed on the ground in so many ways.” (Music to my ears!)

In Thailand, the Bangkok Post noted the local language problem, quoting an industry exec as saying not only in Thailand but all around ASEAN “a one-size-fits-all approach would not meet the needs of everyone in emerging markets

And in Vietnam, the reaction was No No No No No! (Netflix didn’t bother to try, in China, so Vietnam gets the Dr. No award this time.)

Christopher Slaughter

Christopher Slaughter

CEO

I was in Las Vegas last week at CES, where amidst all the drones and kitted-out cars, Virtual Reality was the theme that kept coming forward (and causing grown men to cry, apparently). Queues for VR demos were everywhere, with people willing to stand for more than an hour to try a rig out, and willing to lose their lunches in the process. And despite the fact that VR is just barely past the "Trough of Disillusionment” on Gartner’s hype curve, many of the online players in particular are getting stuck into the technology, with Hulu planning to roll out products and services this spring, and Google reportedly getting ready to make some big bets too. And while there are still plenty of skeptics out there who think VR is just the latest fad (think: “3DTV”), there are others who are thinking very deeply about the new technology: “… the most fascinating idea—but it’s deeply philosophical and very disturbing—is whether we do live in a virtual reality all the time anyway, in some sort of virtual ambiguity.”  Who else, but Werner Herzog…?

Mark Lay

Vice President, Singapore

Another company that put on a great presentation at CES was YouTube. And the digital video story cannot be written without them. Robert Kyncl’s (Chief Business Officer) keynote can be seen (or quickly read) and goes over his predictions about digital video from 2012. He is spookily on track to nailing them all.

Kevin Jennings

Vice President, Programme

Controversy in Australia over the latest Australia Day Lamb ad, where Australian diaspora are “extracted” from situations around the world to ensure they can have lamb on the barbie on January 26th. No word from the Danish Royal family but inevitably, the ad has received complaints, including vegans who branded the ad discriminatory and the campaign  has received  the most complaints for any ad in Australian history. The Australian Advertising Standards Bureau is set to rule on the case next week and could force the ad to be withdrawn, but with Australia Day just around the corner the complaints have raised the profile of the campaign so either way the ad can be judged a success. 
John Medeiros

John Medeiros

Chief Policy Officer

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the US case where cable ISP Cox Communications was being sued for not seriously applying a policy to stem repeat infringement by its customers. (Cox is not a part of the “Copyright Alert System,” also known as the “six strikes” system, for notifying and reprimanding serial pirate downloaders.) Well, now the jury has returned a verdict: Cox was found guilty of contributing to infringement and was fined US$25 million. Hollywood Reporter said the decision “could make it more likely that in the future, copyright pirates are kicked off the Internet.” (Well, until they come back, at least…..) And TorrentFreak commented “it is now likely that … major ISPs will be scrambling to have very clear repeat infringer processes committed to paper and have their employees follow them to the letter.” Sounds like a good outcome to me. (But there will, inevitably be an appeal.)
Desmond Chung

Anjan Mitra

Executive Director, India

After spending mega bucks on Free basics campaign in India, Facebook is still not certain which way the coin will turn. Not only FB and regulator TRAI are fighting over number of responses against and for Free Basics and differential pricing; the latter being opposed by many, including CASBAA member Star India. While Net neutrality, reportedly, got a thumbs up (what else?) from Indians, FB is being panned by internet advocacy organisations for being "disingenuous" in its plans to bring "digital equality for all Indians." But here’s an original critique of the issue, put forward by an independent think-tank, Observer Research Foundation, which among other things, wants some sort of must-provide obligation put on the Internet. Ugh!!
Desmond Chung

Jane Buckthought

Advertising Consultant

Two thirds of Southeast Asian children aged 6-14 would rather only use the internet than watch any television. This is according to a study by SuperAwesome involving 1,800 kids aged 6-14 in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Other findings: Asked whether they would rather only use the internet or only watch TV, 66 per cent of kids said the former.  The smartphone is the most popular device on which kids access the internet. Using different screened devices at the same time – multi-screening – is common. And YouTube is by far the most popular website. 
Christopher Slaughter

Christopher Slaughter

CEO

Al Jazeera America has announced it will be closing down its US-based operations, a move that could lead to layoffs for up to 700 journalists in a dozen bureaux across the country. The company cites “…the economic challenges in the US media marketplace…” as the main reason it has struggled to build an audience, although others are less forgiving: “…it set out to prove that a hard-news cable network with an Arabic name…could connect with American viewers. It failed miserably.”  But Al Jazeera’s Dohar headquarters has a slightly different lead for the story, saying the company will “…expand its existing international digital services to broaden its multi-platform presence in the United States.”  
Desmond Chung

Anjan Mitra

Executive Director, India

The third phase of digitisation is complete (deadline over on Dec 31, 2015). No, wait, probably it’s not. The deadline is being extended by various courts despite federal government (read MIB) stating beginning of last quarter 2015 there would be no extension. If an average consumer of cable TV in India is confused, he’s not to be blamed. Equally confused is MIB, which is, according to media reports, burning midnight oil to find ways to counter court orders. Amidst this confusion head of Siti Cable, one of the three largest MSOs, is for broadcasters blacking out signals in non-digitised areas.

Mark Lay

Vice President, Singapore

From an Asian perspective, with our TV/video markets developed at varying degrees of maturity, predictions for American media are always interesting.  Either the prediction already came true or it may do a number of years down the road. Either way, the following are applicable and worth the read.  Watch This Space: Big Change For Media In 2016:  Prediction 1 – "More players will enter the OTT space”.  Come on, that’s a gimme, can’t argue there. Five Streaming Video Predictions for 2016. Prediction 2 – "YouTube and Facebook will continue to square off, and it will probably result in a split decision.”  Sorry, this is a heavy-weight title fight.  2016 will only see us through round 2.

Kevin Jennings

Vice President, Programme

The Vietnam government has announced it is gearing up to launch three satellites over the next five years. The new satellites will be used for remote sensing – collecting and transmitting data about the Earth’s surface, helping scientists forecast climate change and natural disasters. The Deputy Minister of Information and Communications said the satellite communication sector has strongly grown in Vietnam with two operational telecom satellites and a remote sensing satellite currently in operation.
Desmond Chung

Jane Buckthought

Advertising Consultant

Korean internet users claiming to watch TV content and movies on-line via TV has grown significantly in two years. Despite the growing trend, Ovum’s senior analyst for TV and OTT video, doesn’t envisage the end of traditional TV distribution. He says “Nothing happens overnight. Contrary to popular perceptions, consumer habits actually change remarkably slowly."

Yegee Chun

Regulatory Assistant

Tech giants unveiled several impressive displays at CES 2016. Among them were a transformable module TV and a transparent OLED screen by Samsung, and Panasonic’s invisible display. LG presented its 8K Super Ultra-High Definition TV, as well as a flexible, bendable HD screen that could revolutionize mobile or on-the-go viewing in the near future.
Desmond Chung

Anjan Mitra

Executive Director, India

Sports all set to get more exciting ( and, probably, more moneyed) in India from later this month. Disney’s ESPN re-enters after a three-year cool-off period with a new partner, Sony beginning with non-live programming. It’d be interesting to watch how ESPN’s former partner Star reacts having poured in billions of dollars in sporting products.
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