Netflix Consumption Surges 115 Percent in Southeast Asia Amid Virus Lockdowns

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The average time spent on video platforms, spanning YouTube to Amazon Prime, has seen explosive growth in the region after stay-at-home orders were implemented in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Use of Netflix, YouTube and other streaming platforms has exploded in Southeast Asia during the the lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from Media Partners Asia (MPA).

The uptick in online video consumption in the diverse Southeast Asian region is in line with growth trends identified in North America during the pandemic — only more so.

Time spent on streaming platforms in the U.S. grew by 34 percent in the first two weeks of March, according to Nielsen. In Southeast Asia, total streaming time over mobile phones, the most popular means of consumption in the region, grew by 60 percent from Jan. 20 to April 11, according to MPA's data.

The consultancy and research firm tracked video usage in the region's key markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, finding that total mobile video consumption on a weekly basis reached 58 billion minutes by April 11 versus 36.4 billion on Jan. 20. The report's authors attributed the surge to the "the disruption and subsequent lockdown measures enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The report used a method of tallying video consumption that combined passively observed digital behavior and empirical data from a survey of 32,425 individuals. The researchers analyzed 43 OTT platforms, including AVOD leaders like YouTube, subscription players such as Netflix, and popular local operators like Line TV.

Netflix was singled out as one of the key beneficiaries of the lockdown-driven consumption spike. MPA said average weekly minutes spent watching Netflix in surged 115 percent once lockdowns were introduced in the key territories surveyed.

"Netflix has benefited from robust pay subs demand across its mobile plans, with heavy consumption of its Korean, anime and Western original content," the MPA said.

The firm said its research indicated that the four markets studied had a combined 7 million paying video subscribers by the end of March, accounting for $350 million in annual consumer spending. "Netflix is a clear leader in most markets," the report's authors said.

Virtually all of the OTT operators included in MPA's study appear to have benefited during the pandemic, however. "YouTube, already dominant, has grown incrementally from its high base during the surveyed period," the authors said. Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, "grew most significantly in Singapore through the surveyed period."

Regional operator Viu, backed by Hong Kong's PCCW, has seen a particularly strong uptick in usage, according the MPA's findings. Time spent consuming content on the platform has jumped 274 percent from the pre-pandemic period, from just over 500 million minutes per week to to approximately 2 billion minutes.

“The penetration of streaming video has increased dramatically during this pandemic as millions have been forced to operate from home," says Vivek Couto, MPA's executive director. "The focus now is on how successfully SVOD platforms will be able to retain newly acquired customers in the second quarter of 2020 and to what extent AVOD platforms can capitalize on the expanded reach."