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Video streaming thriving in Vietnam

March 3, 2022

Great TV show.Handsome cheerful young man holding remote control and watching TV while sitting on the couch at home

Filippo Giachi

SVP – APAC, Middle East & Africa

Interest in subscription video on demand (SVOD) services in Vietnam has been growing steadily over the last few years, with ever-larger slices of the country’s 98m population proving themselves willing to access and pay for streaming video content from a mixture of local and global providers.

That was particularly true in 2020 when the introduction of economic restrictions and social distancing rules intended to combat the coronavirus pandemic pushed SVOD subscriber numbers up 21% year on year to reach 5.1m, according to Statista’s Digital Market Outlook. Those numbers increased again by another 10% to hit 5.1m in 2021, while Vietnamese SVOD services are expected to add anything between 400k and 600k paying customers a year between 2022 and 2025 and will total 7.5m by the end of Statista’s forecast period.

Most Vietnamese adults aged between 16 and 64 (60%) said that the main reason they use the Internet is to watch videos, TV shows, and movies, according to GWI data compiled in the third quarter of 2021. Separate research appears to confirm that upward trend. According to a survey of 1631 Vietnamese residents aged 16+ conducted by Rakuten Insight in May 2021, 47% now use an SVOD service every day, and 35% several times a week. Figures published by the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade also indicate that streaming movies or music was the second most popular online activity in Vietnam in 2020.

GWI found that as of the third quarter of 2021, almost all (94%) Vietnamese adults stream TV content over the Internet at least once a month and spend an average of one hour, 24 minutes a day doing it. That represents half of the total time watching TV in any format, including linear and broadcast.

Turnover from SVOD services has accelerated in parallel, surging 41% year on year to reach US$126m in 2020. High levels of growth came again in 2021 when SVOD revenue jumped 28% year on year to reach US$162m, according to Statista’s Digital Market Outlook. What’s more, turnover is expected to hit US$200m this year and US$302m by 2025.

Preference for local streaming apps and content

Vietnam is unusual in that a local, homegrown SVOD platform commands a more significant proportion of subscribers ahead of other global players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. A survey of 1,440 people in Vietnam carried out by Decision Labs in the third quarter of 2021 revealed FPT Play as the biggest SVOD provider measured by subscriber numbers in the country at that time, accounting for 24% of paying customers ahead of Netflix in second place (22%) and VTV Go in third (17%). FPT Play was also tenth in App Annie’s rankings of mobile apps in Vietnam, measured by consumer spending in 2021.

Other local players MyTV (6%), K+ (5%), and Viettel TV (7%) command much lower shares of the market, but there are a lot of them. Like VTV, Vietnamese cable TV providers VNPT and SCTV have developed online content stores and streaming apps of their own to help them retain viewers. At the same time, local telco Mobifone joined rival operator Viettel in launching MobiTV.

The most recent market entrant is VieON, a smartphone app developed and launched in June 2020 by the Vietnamese media, entertainment, and technology group DatViet DAC with BCG Digital Ventures’ backing. Tencent Video also offers video-on-demand services in Vietnam after purchasing the assets and customer base of iFlix and integrating them into its Southeast Asian focussed WeTV platform.

Free and AVOD alternatives remain popular

While there’s little doubt that demand for SVOD services is growing, there is also evidence to suggest that many people in Vietnam still prefer to stream content from advertising-based video-on-demand (AVOD) platforms. YouTube, for example, was the second most visited website in Vietnam during December 2021, according to web traffic analysis data compiled by Amazon’s Alexa Internet subsidiary.

Elsewhere a survey of around 1,000 Vietnamese adults conducted by SpotX and Milleu Insight in October 2020 found that 86% regularly used video-sharing platforms, while 64% accessed free or paid TV and 48% over the top (OTT) equivalents. YouTube again became the leading platform for streaming movies amongst Internet users in Vietnam in the third quarter of 2021. According to the Decision Labs survey, it was accessed by 48% of those aged between 16 and 60, and ahead of both local platforms (26%) and Netflix (9%).

SpotX and Milleu Insight also found 60% of Vietnamese adults prefer free services which show advertising, significantly more than the 25% that would pay for an ad-free video streaming service and 15% that would pay a reduced fee for fewer ads.

Smartphones play big role in viewing habits

Whatever the source or price of the streaming video they consume, it’s clear that the smartphone plays a key role in viewing habits. Of the 1631 Vietnamese residents aged 16+ polled by Rakuten Insight last May, 61% said they used their smartphones to view SVOD services, more than those who used their laptops (53%), tablets (23%), and desktop PCs (16%) and second only to people viewing the same content on large screen Smart TVs (66%).

The smartphone is the go-to device for all sorts of activities for many people in Vietnam, so it seems natural they should make it into their very own portable TV. The GSMA estimates mobile phone penetration in Vietnam at 158%, while almost all Vietnamese adults (98%) between the ages of 16 and 64 own a smartphone, according to GWI data. That’s far more than those who own either a desktop or laptop computer (64%), tablet (35%), or games console. A small percentage (13%) also own a dedicated TV streaming device.

While the demand is there, the scale and the ferocity of the competition for paying SVOD subscribers in Vietnam means providers will have to plan their content strategies carefully if they are to continue expanding.

GWI statistics suggest that exclusive content would encourage 14% of Vietnamese adults to complete an online purchase, including paying for an SVOD subscription or one-off, limited-time download as soon as new movies or TV shows are released. Add local language content and translations to that mix with packages and are quick and easy to watch and pay for via the smartphone, and SVOD providers could have a winning combination in Vietnam.

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