KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Television broadcasters in Asia on Oct. 4 said their satellite direct-to-home linear-TV business is not under immediate threat from over-the-top (OTT) Internet delivery services such as Netflix and Hulu.
They said that while satellite-delivered television has many good days still ahead, the fleet operators will face pricing pressure as fewer broadcasters demand hundreds of channels. The aggregate demand for capacity thus is likely to fall, putting pressure on prices.
Addressing the APSCC 2016 conference here, organized by the Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Council, these broadcasters said Asian markets do not offer a cut-and-paste opportunity in which a success in the United States or Europe determines a winner here.
David Weiland, executive vice president of BBC Asia, said no one has time to watch 300 or 400 channels and that broadcasters ultimately will reduce the amount of programming they offer.
Satellite yes, but smaller bundles
“Nobody watches that much TV, so we changed our strategy,” Weiland said. “Our linear portfolio is four channels — news, preschool children’s programming, premium factual content and lifestyle — all offered in HD,” or high-definition format. “That linear portfolio is here to stay.”
Weiland nonetheless said his network is paying less for satellite capacity today than in the past as broadcasters settle on a few channels of core programming and drop the 400-channel approach.
BBC Asia is offering drama programs for OTT distribution. Weiland said binge-watching of drama is better suited for non-linear distribution than the BCC’s core programming.
Sky Perfect JSat of Japan also sees no immediate threat to its television audience from OTT, in part because Japan’s aging population is less likely to switch to OTT.
Minoru Yonezawa, executive officer for the multichannel pay TV business unit at JSat, said 40 percent of his company’s TV viewers record some of their programming, but that OTT providers will have difficulty getting consumers to pay for services such as Netflix and Hulu.
Netflix and Hulu a factor, but not a big one
“Netflix entered the Japanese market about a year ago, and I don’t think they’ve done well,” Yonezawa said. “But they did cause a price war and increased the competitiveness of the market for the younger generation of viewers. Netflix and Hulu in Japan are offering Japanese content in addition to their non-Japanese lineup.
Indonesia, a nation of more than 13,000 islands, remains a unique case among large-population nations in offering what might be called natural geographic barriers to OTT, and a natural haven for satellite broadcasting.
Rudy Tanoesoedibjo, president of Indonesia’s largest pay-television broadcaster, MNC Sky Vision, said mobile broadband remains too expensive for most people in Indonesia, reducing the current OTT market to a selected few high-income areas.
In addition, signal piracy is an issue that any OTT provider would need to confront, limiting the Indonesian market’s appeal.
That’s also true for the satellite broadcast sector, which in Indonesia is growing quickly with several new satellites on order by Indonesian owners.
‘Skinny bundles’ also in Indonesia
Also of concern for satellite operators is what Tanoesoedibjo called “skinny bundles” of television channels that broadcasters are turning to because their subscribers no longer want the 400-channel offerings.
“So there is good and bad for the satellite sector” in Indonesia, he said, adding that MSN had no regrets about taking part in the 2009 purchase of the Protostar 2 satellite, in partnership with SES, following the bankruptcy of Protostar Ltd. SES purchased Protostar 2, in orbit, for $185 million with MSN as anchor customer. “We got it at a very good price,” Tanoesoedibjo said.
With the average Indonesian television screen less than 40 inches in size, HD broadcasting is taking longer to catch on. Tanoesoedibjo said MNC has 65 percent of the Indonesian market, with the remaining 35 percent divided among 11 other companies. Some are offering more HD than MNC, but to no real effect so far, he said.
“If you cannot charge more” for HD programming, he said, “then the demand is not there.” He said the top Indonesian channels are distributed free-to-air and have considerable local content — a necessity since the growth of the Indonesian television market is now mainly in smaller cities outside Jakarta, in regions where only local-language programming will find an audience.
The BBC’s Weiland said he expected that trends now seen in markets like Britain are likely to arrive in Asia, but will take time, and in all markets it will be content quality that determines success.
“Of course consumer demand is changing,” Weiland said. “In the U.K, 16- to 24-year-olds each 15 percent less television than before, and 30 percent of their video is non-linear, a figure that will climb to 40 percent — much of it Youtube.”