Satellite broadcasting in APAC to see sustained growth thanks to the “3 Cs”

Satellite broadcasting in APAC to see sustained growth thanks to the “3 Cs”

By Yew Weng Soo, VP, Sales & Market Development, SES Video, APAC

The debate on OTT versus linear TV has become the industry’s favourite dead horse to beat, having been endlessly rehashed in innumerable industry gatherings, panel discussions, and meetings. Diehard OTT-only proponents argue that by providing “what viewers want, when they want”, the convenience of being able to time and location shift with OTT services has somehow “won” and therefore the future of the video market is already set.

This somewhat myopic view incorrectly frames the landscape as an either-or choice between OTT and other broadcast platforms. In my opinion, OTT is here to stay but overlooking trends and factors specific to Asia underpin the continued success of linear TV and point to very healthy growth in the coming years.

Uniqueness of Asian Audiences

Compared to citizens of other regions, Asians are famous for being early adopters of technology. In terms of speed of adoption and optimization, video content and broadcasting are no exception.

Asian citizens’ eagerness to adopt new technologies is also reflected today in the way the advent of mobile devices has changed the way they consume media. More than any other region, nearly everyone you come across on a subway or bus, young or old, is fixated on their smart devices, watching the latest Korean drama or consuming short video clips on social media.

Once they reach home though, TV becomes paramount. Thanks to family-centred values and multi-generational living arrangements, a TV is “a member of the family” and watching TV is likewise a family affair. The TV is constantly on in the background, and draws family and friends together for favourite TV programmes.

Given the uniqueness of the Asian consumer, there are quite a few elements that will ensure a bright future for satellite in Asia Pacific. Some of these important elements can be summarised as “the 3 Cs”.

The 1st C: Consistent

In the broadcasting world, consistency and reliability of service is particularly important, but even more so when a live sporting event is on. Take the recent World Cup, for example: Could anything be worse than the TV screen going blank or buffering just as someone is about to score in the last minute?

Given Asia’s love of sports, reliable broadcasting of sporting events is key. For the majority of Asians living in the capital and in major cities, they can count on terrestrial infrastructure – whether cable or broadband -- to catch their favourite sports.

However, for those living in mountainous areas, islands or other remote locations, any form of infrastructure is a luxury. In these areas, terrestrial infrastructure may not be the adequate solution as it’s expensive to roll out and to maintain, and easily damaged – whether by natural causes or sabotage.

Besides, outside of and sometimes even within Asia’s mega-cities, broadband connection speeds remain expensive and inconsistent, and can be hardly relied on as a source.

Little wonder why satellite is a perennial favourite in Asia. Located 36,000km above the earth’s surface, satellites are able to transcend geographical challenges with one powerful beam to broadcast a bouquet of channels to an entire country – or even continent. Cable cuts and fibre outages don’t matter and one can be guaranteed to view any sports event in its full glory!

The 2nd C: Cost-effectiveness

It’s easy to forget just how massive Asia-Pacific is – we live in a vast place, divided by enormous seas, split into archipelagos, and crisscrossed by rugged mountains. In this setting, satellite remains cost effective for reaching millions of households at a time. This is particularly true in emerging markets including archipelago nations such as  Indonesia and the Philippines, or mountainous countries like Myanmar.

Many Asian countries have just a handful of dominant cities and uneven levels of infrastructure investment and urbanisation, sharply driving up the cost of deploying broadband and DTT technologies outside the major urban areas. In these situations, such as in Thailand and Vietnam, satellite-supported services are an excellent choice.

Satellite is also the most price competitive solution for upping the number of channels to the vast number of Asian customers. For broadcasters, the introduction of newer satellite technologies including high-powered and high-throughput satellites with spot beams will allow truly local content to be broadcast at far more economically viable rates, helping ensure both profitability and competitive pricing for consumers.

The 3rd C: Crystal Clear Clarity

Two months ago, the IMF reaffirmed what most everyone already anecdotally knew – Asia is on course to be the fastest growing, most economically dynamic part of the world, forecasted to grow at 5.5% and capturing fully two-thirds of global growth. As Asian consumers benefit from one of the fastest improvements in quality of living in recorded history, higher standards in every aspect of their lives is a given. It’s hence no surprise that consumers will want to watch TV in better quality if they have a choice.

Even with the sizeable share of Asian households with no television or with analogue sets, among existing owners, expectations of picture quality are rising sharply and the number of digital television owners looking to switch from SD to HD is set to rise. The popularity of live sports broadcast in HD is a strong driver of demand for this growth, and remains an important differentiator for pay-TV operators.

And then there’s UHD. Although it represents an insignificant slice of the market at present, make no mistake: as the pace of transition to HD in Asia has shown, the speed of market adoption of UHD might just surprise the naysayers. The number of households in Asia equipped with an UHD TV set is set to triple from 10 percent in 2017 to 2022.   Whether it’s HD or UHD, satellite has the bandwidth to deliver the immersive viewing experience that Asian consumers are demanding, and the reach to bring crystal-clear clarity to millions of viewers.

Thanks to the 3 Cs, satellite is firmly cemented in the future of Asia’s broadcasting ecosystem and will play a vital role for years to come.

The full article was first published on APSCC 2018 Issue 3.