Netflix will be blocked without local office: official

By Khuong Nha   February 27, 2023 | 03:46 pm PT
Netflix will be blocked without local office: official
Some popular pay television services in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Khuong Nha
Providers of cross-border over-the-top (OTT) television services such as Netflix and iQiYi will be blocked and sanctioned if they do not establish legal entities in Vietnam, said an official.

"If a cross-border OTT television service provider does not have a legal entity in Vietnam, the Ministry of Information and Communications will coordinate with telecommunications enterprises to block access to it," Nguyen Ha Yen, deputy general director of the ministry’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information, said at a conference on the issue Monday.

Five cross-border OTT television service providers are operating in Vietnam, including two from the U.S. and three from China, he noted.

According to a new policy on communications media management that came into effect at the beginning of the year, pay television service providers operating in Vietnam must have a representative office in the country that falls under the management of Vietnamese authorities.

According to the ministry, the policy is to ensure fairness between international and domestic enterprises in the pay television service market.

"The world’s OTT giants attract a large amount of advertising but do not comply with Vietnamese regulations. That’s not fair to domestic OTT businesses," said Tran Van Uy, chairman of the Vietnam Pay Television Association.

Uy said that if OTT television services are not managed, there is a risk their content could upset a variety of cultural, political and legal norms.

Many films that are not allowed to be shown via Vietnamese OTT services due to violations of certain regulations are still broadcast by Netflix, he noted.

"There should be sanctions on both hardware devices and applications. Many TV sets sold in Vietnam have Netflix built into their operating systems, so people can use the service simply by pressing a single button on the remote," he said.

Huynh Long Thuy, general director of VieON Corporation, the owner of the Vietnamese OTT app VieON, said that over the past five years, cross-border OTT service providers have directly charged users in Vietnam, and have many times shown content that distorts Vietnamese history and infringes on the country’s sovereignty.

The streaming services did not remove the content until Vietnamese authorities asked them to do so. If Vietnamese OTT services provide such content, they will be punished immediately, Thuy said.

According to ministry statistics, revenues from OTT television services in Vietnam stood at VND1.55 trillion (US$65.68 million) in 2022, up 27.2% over 2017.

The number of OTT television subscribers reached 5.5 million, an increase of 26.2% compared to 2017.

Vietnam currently has 22 local and foreign pay television service providers, including Netflix, iFlix from Malaysia, and WeTV from China.

Netflix is expected to open an office in Vietnam late this year, Reuters reported last week.

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