All the indications are that people in Thailand spent more time watching streaming video content over the last year as lockdown restrictions forced them to seek alternative sources of entertainment. Nielsen Media Thailand noted increased media consumption in the country during 2020 as the pandemic took hold, a trend extended across multiple channels (TV, Internet and radio) and digital, mobile and online platforms.[i]
Nielsen estimates that Thai consumers increased the amount of time they spend each day on their smartphones from 3.51 to 6 hours, for example, with desktop/laptop time doubling to 4.2 hours and tablet usage increasing from 1.15 to 2.51 hours. Watching TV, streaming content and online gaming were some of the most popular online activities alongside web browsing, shopping, messaging and accessing online news.
Figures compiled by GlobalWebIndex suggest that 70% of Internet users aged between 16 and 64 brought some form of video, music or published text content in Q320, whether streamed or downloaded. In their Future of TV report, Kantar and theTradeDesk estimated the number of people viewing OTT video content in Thailand reached 26m in 2020 or 38% of the population. The two companies also found that 45% of the Thais they polled intended to increase their OTT consumption once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided, with another 40% expecting to maintain it at current levels. Of those OTT video viewers, 66% spent between one and four hours a day watching content, and 22% over four hours, tuning in for around 19 days a month on average.
pay-TV viewers and providers switch to SVoD
A broad mix of digital content providers delivers OTT streaming video services to Thai consumers, with a growing middle class seemingly more willing to pay for subscriptions rather than watch free to air TV. That inclination looks set to drive significant increases in revenue for content providers. Statista estimates that revenue from subscription video on demand (SVOD) services in Thailand will hit US$146m in 2021, up almost 27% in 2020 and set to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.9% through to 2025.
Separate forecasts compiled by GlobalData predict that the pay-TV industry in Thailand will see its revenue increase by 8% in 2021 over 2020[i]. That expansion will come solely from IPTV subscriptions, set to grow at a CAGR of almost 25% between 2020 and 2025 as users move away from traditional cable TV and satellite-based direct to home (DTH) services. The research company estimates that multi-play bundles delivered in partnership with telcos, MNOs and other communication service and digital content providers will support a lot of that activity.
Most of the leading SVOD providers already deliver access to their streaming content via smartphone apps. Figures compiled by App Annie for 2020 ranked three examples – WeTV (Tencent), Netflix and PCCW’s VIU – in the country’s top ten apps measured by consumer spend across all categories. Netflix is estimated to have accumulated 546,000 active streaming subscribers in the country in 2020, up over 52% year on year from 358,000 in 2019 after it began offering cut-price tariffs costing as little as US$3.15 in the country.
Netflix faces stiff competition, however, not only from Disney+ but also local South East Asian providers. GlobalData calculates that TrueVisions accounts for the largest share of pay-TV subscriptions in Thailand due to the number of consumers who use its legacy cable TV and IPTV platforms. The satellite and payTV operator expanded into SVoD with its True ID TV platform in 2019. The package can be purchased via a set-top box available through a bundling deal with fixed broadband provider True Online or accessed as a subscription via the mobile app.
Launched in 2015, Primetime also offers subscriptions to films and TV shows licensed from leading studios and dubbed into local languages, which are priced between US$6.34 and US$17.50 a month. Other local SVOD players include MV Hub, Hollywood HDTV and Doonee (owned by STG Mediaplex).
Other providers have attracted large numbers of viewers by offering free and ad-supported streaming video content, most notably LINE TV, which has over 40m Thai viewers. Around a third of those polled by Kantar in its Future of TV report (30%) accessed only subscription video on demand (SVOD) content, and 12% only ad-supported equivalents. The most considerable proportion (57%) access both forms of OTT video in tandem, however.
Fierce competition demands fast, convenient subscriber acquisition
Before the onset of coronavirus, the ferocity of the competition was putting severe pressure on some SVOD providers. Tencent acquired the content, technology and resources of iflix (which it now shares with its own WeTV platform) in June 2020 after the Malaysian-headquartered video streaming platform teetered on the brink of insolvency. Singtel-backed HOOQ too was active in Thailand before it closed down in April 2020 after sustaining heavy financial losses.
While the addressable market and potential customer base may have since expanded, SVOD providers still need a fast, convenient method of onboarding new customers and offering as many payment options as possible to keep the recurring subscription fees flowing. Offering direct carrier billing (DCB), for example, can help them reach younger Thai consumers who may not have credit or debit cards but who do have access to smartphones, mobile money accounts and electronic wallets (eWallets) to fund their digital content purchases.
[i] Nielsen calls for brands to keep up spending on ads, Bangkok Post, 4th March 2021
[ii] Thai pay TV market to recover from Covid decline in 2021, Digital TV Europe, 13th January 2021