Entrepreneur

Viu's Freemium Model Might Be Their Ticket To Conquering A RM135 Mil Industry In M'sia

  • The VOD (video-on-demand) industry in Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, is currently experiencing increased growth and demand. With over 40 million mobile subscriptions in Malaysia, streaming video content has become more accessible than ever.
  • Taking note of the scene’s rapid growth, media company Viu aims to build upon the momentum by utilising various strategies that have seen them become successful in 15 markets worldwide.
  • We spoke to Kingsley Warner, General Manager of Viu Malaysia, about the Malaysian OTT and VOD content industry and what it will take to succeed in such a fast-moving industry.

As a nation with over 40 million mobile phone subscriptions, appetites for Video-On-Demand and OTT (over-the-top) content are being catered to by players both local (iflix, Tonton, DimSum) and international (Netflix).

Planning to leverage on the huge boom within Malaysia’s VOD content market (revenue for the VOD market in Malaysia for 2018 stands at approximately RM135 million) is service provider Viu, a media tech company and provider of VOD content with a presence in over 15 markets worldwide, and who recently celebrated their second of year of operations here.

On their platform, Viu offers an array of popular Asian series and movies that include K-dramas, Bollywood movies, and Chinese soap operas, which are a mixed bag of both licensed properties as well as original content.

In April last year, Viu recorded an approximated six million monthly active users across all of its markets, a 50% growth from 4 million in November 2016. Right now, that number has reached 16 million, with about 1.8 billion total video views recorded on its platform.

Aiming to get some insights regarding the growth of the OTT market in Malaysia, we spoke with Kingsley Warner, General Manager of Viu Malaysia for some of his thoughts on the scene and what makes for a winning growth strategy within the space.

Bringing In Original Content

“I think it’s become very clear to everyone that Malaysians really love good Asian shows,” Kingsley said when speaking on Viu’s content offerings.

“You can see it in the crowds when Asian stars come to visit as well as in the evolution of our competitors as they start skewing more content in this direction.”

Focusing on that sentiment, Kingsley proceeded to the importance of high-quality, original, localised content.

In the west, content providers such as Netflix and Hulu have enjoyed continued success from the creation of original series such as the critically acclaimed Black Mirror.

Kingsley thinks that Malaysia’s industry can also stand to benefit from the same approach.

“First of all, we need to learn from outside Malaysia. We can’t stick to the same formulas that have done well here anymore,” he explained.

“Internet access being available to everyone means that Malaysians’ standards are set by the entertainment they see globally. So we need to compete on that level.”

Citing a successful case study from Indonesia in which his company produced a show with the same quality of a K-drama, Kingsley said that Malaysians can and should expect to see the same level of quality appear locally.

“We’ll be launching Malaysian Viu Originals this year and are looking to do other advertiser-led shows as well,” he said. “On the creative side, we seek top Southeast Asian talent to work with Viu.”

“Everything about what we do is local. We believe it’s this sustained long term investment and commitment to developing a market that will allow us to come out ahead.”

Attracting Users With The “Free” In Freemium

But what’s the point of high-quality original content without a good way to sell it?

In Kingsley’s opinion, merely having high-quality shows isn’t nearly enough to keep a service competitive, and attributes Viu’s high consumption rate to its freemium business model.

This provides an amount of free content sufficient to draw casual viewers to the platform while also offering more premium and current content at RM10 per month.

Viu’s freemium model lets their audience access early episodes of premium content for free, while the remaining episodes are kept behind an affordable pay wall.

“This model helps us acquire users, it offers our telco partners high data consumption, and it provides our brands with a wealth of opportunities to deliver contextual ads and offers consumers a legitimate source of videos outside of piracy.”

Looking at the model as a whole, it’s obvious that the main goal of it all is to create a way for consumers to easily watch their favourite shows—especially for content from less prominent markets.

“While it’s true that Korean content leads, what we’d like to do is to bring great entertainment from places like Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, India and more to Malaysians and make it easily accessible,” Kingsley said.

“Based on what we’ve seen, there is demand for this content. Engagement is very high and we want to make it easy to get it so that viewers don’t have to rely on pirates.”

Staying Relevant In A Growing Market

In summing up his points, Kingsley expressed his belief that 2018 would see many players in the OTT content scene due to the lucrative opportunities on offer, but that success would only go to those who understand and can carry out the following fundamentals:

  • Seamless onboarding and easy access for consumers.
  • A compelling content strategy that focuses on local content and aims to drive long-term viewership.
  • A long term investment plan for content, technology, and marketing that is based on consumer insights.
  • A focus on providing superior consumer experience.
  • An entrepreneurial culture that emphasises consumer entertainment before company valuations.

All these, he said, would also factor into the future plans that Viu has to continue its growth after two years in Malaysia.

“We’re optimistic for the future,” he said. “But whether it’s our approach to content, our freemium business model, or local partnerships and pricing, we know that we must keep a strong focus on how we differentiate from others.”

“Today’s consumer will absolutely not tolerate anything other than the best. This is why selecting and providing content that matches our users’ behaviour is paramount.”

  • To know more about Viu and their content offerings, check out their website.

Feature Image Credit: Viu

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