Online streaming giants battle for Asian audiences

This image released by Netflix shows Timothée Chalamet, center, in a scene from "The King."
Updated 15 October 2019

Online streaming giants battle for Asian audiences

BUSAN, South Korea: Acclaimed director David Michod’s epic “The King” was one of four major Netflix productions screened at Asia’s largest film festival this week, underlining how streaming services are increasingly challenging Hollywood and traditional media for the attention of artists — and viewers.
Asia is seen as an important part of the global streaming industry’s growth plan. In conjunction with the main event, Busan International Film Festival also hosted its first Asia Contents Awards reflecting how the market is rapidly changing.
“They gave us the resources and the freedom to make this properly,” Michod said of working with Netflix.
“I like that I don’t feel I am sacrificing myself at the altar of the box office,” he added.
So called over-the-top (OTT) platforms or video-on-demand (VOD) — online services that viewers can access directly such as Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu and Apple TV — are booming.
Hollywood stars including Julia Roberts, Rooney Mara, Brad Pitt and Will Smith, have embraced streaming as audiences grow.
“If people want to can go see (films) on the big screen they can, but my TV at home is amazing,” Michod explained.
Disney and Apple are set to launch their platforms across Asia Pacific this year, capitalizing on growing mobile usage and rapidly improving access to faster speed Internet.
Vivek Couto, executive director at research group Media Partners Asia, believes the region is “crucial” to the plans of global streaming platforms as there are “massive prospects to go after.”
Online video revenue — predominantly from film and TV subscriptions as well as advertising — in the region will increase by 24 percent in 2019, making it worth $27 billion annually, according to a report by Couto’s firm.
That figure is predicted to hit $50 billion by 2024.
China accounts for around 59 percent of revenue for the region in 2019, according to the report — but its strict regulations make access difficult for outside players with local platforms iQIYI, Tencent Video and Youku dominating.
Google-owned YouTube earns the largest share of revenues in Asia, but Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney’s Indian platform Hotstar have all experienced significant growth in the past few years.
“Local content has historically been the preserve of large incumbent TV networks in markets such as India, Japan and Korea but as content and consumption moves online the availability and creation of premium local content becomes important,” said Couto.
He added this would drive up demand, and create opportunities for subscription streaming and for advertisers.
HBO Asia had the world premiere of its star-studded Malaysian co-production “The Garden of Evening Mists” at BIFF.
The film is pan-Asian by design — starring Malaysian Lee Sinjee, Japan’s Hiroshi Abe, and Taiwan’s Sylvia Chang — but global in ambition.
“VOD platforms widen the distribution and amplify the presence of these Asian films to global audiences,” the film’s producers said in a statement to AFP.
Netflix is rolling out 17 Asian productions, with the platform’s first series from Thailand expected to debut by the end of the year.
Despite the arrival of global giants, local platforms believe they can hold their own.
The Southeast Asian HOOQ platform this week announced 19 productions were in the works all made by film-makers from the region.
“As a company that is built in Asia for Asians, we believe that local stories are best told by locals,” argued Jennifer Batty, the company’s chief content officer.
Singapore-based documentary streaming service iwonder recently expanded into eight new southeast Asian markets
“As we expand our offerings, a key focus will be finding documentaries from within those markets, accessing local voices who shine their own unique light on their world,” said the platform’s co-founder James Bridges.
Adapting content to audiences needs will be vital to success.
Around 250 million people regularly watch films on their mobile devices in India.
In response, Netflix introduced a mobile-only version of its streaming, but Asian firms may have the edge on understanding what local audiences want.
“Where I think companies like ours in Asia have the edge is that we are up with the trends out here instantly. We are addressing the way people watch content in Asia,” said Indian producer Ekta Kapoor, managing director of the VoD service ALT Balaji.
She added: “We are making shows designed to be watched on mobile devices, not adapted for them. Shorter-form, about local characters and issues. That puts us ahead.”


Twitter sets out plans for banning political ads

Updated 15 November 2019

Twitter sets out plans for banning political ads

  • Rival Facebook Inc, saying it did not want to stifle political speech, has steadfastly refused calls from some politicians and others to follow Twitter’s lead
  • Twitter said it will use a combination of automated technology and human teams to enforce the new ad policies

WASHINGTON: Twitter Inc. on Friday laid out its plan for banning political ads just as campaigns for the 2020 US presidential election heat up, and for banning ads that advocate for a certain outcome on social and political causes.
Twitter said last month that it would ban political advertising, as social media companies have faced growing calls to stop accepting ads that spread false information and could sway elections.
Twitter said it will define political content under its policy as anything that references “a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.”
“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said in announcing the ban.
Rival Facebook Inc, saying it did not want to stifle political speech, has steadfastly refused calls from some politicians and others to follow Twitter’s lead, and said it would not vet political ads for misleading claims on its site.
The ban, which is expected to take effect on Nov. 22 and includes ads from political candidates, political parties or government officials themselves, was initially derided by US President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
The popular social media platform will allow companies and advocacy groups to run ads that promote awareness and discussion about social causes, such as environmental protection. But they will not be allowed to push for a certain political or legislative change on the issue, especially if they are advocating for something that benefits their business, Del Harvey, vice president of trust and safety, said in a conference call on Friday.
Under the new policy for example, Sierra Club or gun rights advocates could still promote their causes, but they would not be able to single out politicians they support or target those they would like to see defeated in elections, or lobby for political outcomes.
Advertisers who wish to run ads that promote awareness about a cause will be able to target users at the state level or higher, but not by their zip-code. And those advertisers will not be able to target people based on their political leanings, Twitter said.
Twitter said it will use a combination of automated technology and human teams to enforce the new ad policies.
It said it sought to make the new rules as clear as possible. But other major tech companies, including Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google, have had widely publicized struggles to moderate the vast amount of content uploaded to their sites.
News publishers that meet certain criteria will continue to be able to run ads on Twitter that reference political content, but they cannot advocate for or against a political topic.