Is “Freemium” the Way to Go For OTT Platforms In APAC?

Freemium

Find out what led to the success of these OTT businesses in the Asian space

In 2021, internet penetration across the Asian continent has rapidly increased. The Asia-Pacific region (APAC) has the largest number of internet users worldwide. The surge of internet penetration has fueled the growth of Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms in the region. OTT content refers to paid or unpaid media services offered to users directly over the internet. One of the most well-known examples of an OTT platform is Netflix with APAC representing the smallest pool of the company’s international subscriptions.

In APAC, the OTT industry has grown by 14% in 2020, reaching US$30.5 billion. According to Asia Pacific Online Video & Broadband Distribution 2021, the industry is expected to expand by 12% in the next five years.

The region in itself is home to many OTT platforms, with those offering their services in a “freemium” model reigning supreme in terms of popularity. Freemium refers to the free version of a service. In the context of OTT platforms, the freemium model typically means content with advertisements as opposed to premium content which is ad-free.

To understand how this service is helping regional platforms compete with international players, here are the business models of some of the key players in the Asian OTT space.

Disney+Hotstar

Disney+Hotstar is India’s largest OTT platform. The company has a subscription base of 300 million. Hotstar joined hands with Disney+ in 2020 and has contributed to 30% of Disney+’s overall subscription base. Disney+ Hotstar serves audiences in India, the United Kingdom, North America and parts of South Asia.

The OTT platform’s business model includes two levels of subscription, VIP and premium tiers. The VIP tier consists largely of domestically produced content specifically for the platform, Indian channels as well as sports content. This tier offers only one screen per subscription. While the company’s originals remain ad-free, live TV, films and sports content on this tier come with advertisements.

The premium tier provides all the content available through the VIP tier along with internationally produced content and Disney+ originals. It offers two screens per subscription and 4K video quality. The Premium tier offers a completely ad-free experience.

The two tiers have a significant price difference. While the VIP tier is available for INR 399 a year (US$5.35), the premium tier costs INR 1499 a year (US$20.12).

Besides following the subscription model, the company also offers a free tier. The free tier includes select films, news content and TV shows for the Hindi-speaking audience. To gain access to free content, users must register themselves on Hotstar. This content is available only in standard definition and has advertisements integrated into it.

Disney+Hotstar generates 70% of its revenue from advertising. This “freemium” OTT business model has led the company to see high returns, particularly in India. In January 2021, the company sold 10-second ad slots on the India-England cricket series for INR 7-8 lakh each (about US$9,400-US$11,000).

Viu

Viu is a Hong Kong based OTT platform. It was first launched in 2015 and is owned by Hong Kong’s PCCW Media Limited. The OTT platform has 45 million users in 16 international markets across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. To gain entry into these markets, the company has curated a range of regional language content.

The company has seen a 47% growth in the number of paid subscribers in 2020. The OTT platform has a dual-revenue business model based on both advertising and subscriptions. Much like Disney+ Hotstar, it is also a “freemium” service.

Free users can access a limited range of content with advertisements. The OTT platform’s paid tier Viu Premium, offers an ad-free experience with unlimited downloads. The prices for the premium service vary from country to country. In Hong Kong, Viu is available at HK$28 (US$3.61) monthly.

The company largely relies on subscriptions for revenue. In 2020, 62% of the OTT platform’s revenue came from subscriptions. In India, Viu pairs its subscription with access to the music streaming service Gaana.

Tencent Video (WeTV)

Tencent Video is a Chinese streaming service owned by Tencent, a China-based multinational conglomerate. The OTT platform was first launched in 2011 and, by 2019, it became China’s number one streaming platform. In 2021, Tencent video comes fourth among the world’s top revenue-earning applications.

The OTT platform has an international version called WeTv which was launched in 2018. In its effort to expand in the Asian market, Tencent bought the Malaysian streaming platform Iflix in 2020. The company focuses on creating organic content. Over 65% of all the content present on the OTT platform is organic.

WeTv’s content is composed of 60% Chinese, 20% Thai, 10% South Korean, 5% American and 5% other films, animation and TV shows. Tencent video also has a freemium business model.

As of December 2020, Tencent Video has 123 million paid subscribers. In April 2021, the company raised its subscription prices from CNY 198 (US$30.59) to CNY 253 (US$39).

Future of OTT in Asia

The increased access to the internet has increased the audience base for OTT platforms in Asia. The common pattern between all three popular OTT platforms is the “freemium” business model. This model allows dual-revenue streams to the platforms.

However, even with the popularity of freemium, users are still making the choice to purchase subscriptions. The subscription base for all three OTT platforms discussed has seen growth.

The freemium model has been observed to be more successful than 30-day free trials. This is because customers consider it a hassle to cancel the subscription within the stipulated time when trying out an OTT platform. The platforms’ focus on catering to the region’s content needs has been an added advantage accelerating their growth in the region.

Header image courtesy of Freepik

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