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Online TV battle for post-pandemic market share

By Vien Thong   June 21, 2020 | 08:49 pm PT
Online TV battle for post-pandemic market share
Tens of apps offer TV services to consumers in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Vien Thong.
With people staying indoors longer over the Covid-19 pandemic, on-demand and subscription TV services are competing to cash in on increased viewer engagement.

Media firm Dat Viet VAC on June 12 announced it was launching an "entertainment super-app" named VieON after four years of conducting research and development in cooperation with U.S.-based corporate investment firm BCG Digital Ventures.

The application offers 100 TV channels, more than 100,000 hours of content with a diverse genre ranging from feature films to TV shows to exclusive content.

"Domestic Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms have not met the needs of users, while foreign OTT platforms are still strange and not really suited to the tastes and culture of the Vietnamese people," Dat Viet VAC said in a statement, adding that it was seeking to fill this market gap.

OTT refers to film and television content provided via a high-speed Internet connection rather than a cable or satellite provider.

Netflix, Vietnam’s second most popular streaming site according to market data firm Statista, has also moved quickly to capture more audiences as the pandemic abates in the country. In early May, it announced partnerships with Vietnamese filmmakers to release 13 movies which were shown in cinemas to international users between May 8 and June 19, but specifically serving the Vietnamese market.

"This content helps reflect the diversity of Vietnamese cinema, offering a variety of genres that are popular with watchers such as romantic comedy, horror and action," Raphael Phang, Southeast Asia's content manager for Netflix said in the announcement.

Between February and March-end, the average amount of time a consumer spends watching TV rose from around 250 minutes to 270 minutes per day, according to a report by market research firm Kantar Vietnam on four key cities, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Can Tho.

TV engagement continued to rise the next month, peaking at nearly 290 minutes per day in April, when Vietnam observed a 22-day nationwide social distancing campaign. In April 2019, TV engagement had reached 250 minutes at its highest point that month.

Indoors more, online more

Online streaming or on-demand TV services have also greatly benefited from the epidemic. Kantar found that before Vietnam detected its first Covid-19 patient on January 23, consumers spent an average of 231 minutes per day on the internet, but this rose to 256 minutes between February and March, an increase of 11 percent.

In particular, consumers spent around 58 minutes per day watching online videos before January 23, but this number increased to 81 minutes between then and March-end.

During the epidemic period, Vietnamese consumers also upped the use of social networks significantly. The top five social networks used by Vietnamese – Facebook, YouTube, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and TikTok all saw usage rise by between 46-79 percent. All the networks offer video streaming services.

Streaming services provided over the internet, formally known as over-the-top TV (OTT TV), can fundamentally be divided into four sub-segments: AVOD – free and based on ads (Facebook Watch, YouTube, TikTok); SVOD – paid based on subscription (MyK+, Netflix, HBO GO): TVOD – paid based on the content users watch (pay-per view); and EST – paid based on download.

And last year, two OTT TV services from giant Chinese providers, WeTV (Tencent) and iQIYI (Baidu), entered the market, attracting customers by posting several episodes of "hot" movies on YouTube, then inviting users to subscribe to see the remainder on their platform.

Vietnam's OTT TV market size was $86 million in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 10.39 percent per year, to $141 million by 2024, Statista had forecast in a March report.

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