Growing Global OTT Viu Vows to Fend Off Netflix With the Best of Asian Content

Courtesy of Viu
Janice Lee

The PCCW-owned streaming platform announced 80 titles of over 1,000 episodes for 2019, in addition to the licensed series from Asian producers.

Riding on the announcement of 80 titles of over 1,000 episodes of original series for 2019, global OTT platform Viu is prepared to fend off competition with worldwide streaming giant Netflix and the upcoming powerhouse Disney+.

Viu, operated by PCCW Media, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-headquartered telecom conglomerate PCCW, launched eight titles in the first batch of its 2019 slate under the Viu Original banner at the APOS convention in Bali, Indonesia. The new productions will come from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and the Middle East to target the local audience. Having made its name with South Korean drama series and branching out to original titles, the video streaming service has entered 17 markets across Asia, the Middle East and South Africa since its debut in 2015, and saw its monthly active users increased by 10 million to 30.7 million within six months in the second half of 2018.

On the competition with Netflix and imminent arrival of The Walt Disney Company’s foray into direct-to-consumer video streaming service, Disney+, Viu’s parent company PCCW Media Group Managing Director Janice Lee said its positioning as the provider of the best of Asian content enables it to hold its ground in the face of competition with the globally established brands. “We’re focused on Asian content, we offer the newest, latest, and the highest number and most comprehensive range of titles.”

“The road we have set on is to be the best of Asian content, with that, and with our Viu Original, we’ve gotten to 30 million users. At this scale now, we can start considering other types of content, to diversify and balance our portfolio,” Lee told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview.

“When global players are taking notice of Southeast Asia, I think it’s a good thing. It means that they all see, as we do, the opportunity in the Southeast Asian market and Asia in general. I think it’s a validation on the market itself. The market is ready, and more ready than ever. I think the market is big enough for more than one or two players. The main thing is whether we have a differentiated offering,” she added.

In addition to Viu’s licensed shows from Asian content producers, Viu Original adheres to a two-pronged strategy to produce content that appeals regionally and locally. Such IPs as the recently concluded travelogue competition show No Sleep No FOMO targets the pan-regional audience with its cast of celebrities and influencers from across Asia. Whereas new shows, including the just-announced Kopitiam, a remake of a massively popular sitcom in Malaysia that originally ran from 1998, are rooted locally. “The series was a part of the cultural landscape of Malaysia, and we’re giving a new life. Culture is definitely locally relevant, so in cases like that they would be local productions instead of regional.”

Indonesia is one of the fastest growing regions for Viu. In terms of Korean dramas, the product that made Viu’s name, Indonesian viewers consume double of those in other regions. The country’s users also spend the longest time on the Viu platform among the markets it is available in. To further explore the country’s potential, Viu has launched on top of its Viu Pitching Forum for new talents and stories Viu Shorts! for high school and university students that not only provides an arena for them to unleash their creativity, but also the prize of a scholarship at the Jakarta Institute of Art, as well as an internship with Viu. Seventeen winning shorts will debut on the platform within the year.

“We’re going one level deeper and are trying to support the ecosystem of the local creative industry. With Viu Shorts!, we’re hoping to introduce developing and emerging young creators. This is a long-term investment, we’re not trying to get what is ripe today. If we want to win in the long run, we need to develop these relationships with up-and-coming writers, producers and directors.”

For now, Indonesia, with its population of 264 million, serves as a starting point for Viu to test the effectiveness of the Pitching Forum. “The reason we picked Indonesia was because it is a big pool of talent. Apart from that, we want to produce more local content here, so we want to become more a part of the fabric of the Indonesian creative scene,” Lee said. The OTT platform also experimented with a women-only pitching forum, as female creative talents in Indonesia are particularly abundant. Pitching forums in other Asian regions are also on the cards, while the format is being fine-tuned.

Viu recorded a revenue of $117 million in 2018, made up of an approximately 50-50 percent mix of subscription and advertising revenues, and 37.5 billion video minutes consumed by users.