TV: Going Over The Top To Cater For Local Viewing Flavour

RISE OF OTT

Going Over The Top To Cater For Local Viewing Flavour

The changing ways of how we consume content is bringing competition in the OTT space to new heights. Digital entertainment entrepreneur Mark Britt is excited about the future of OTT in Southeast Asia and shares why the streaming platform is empowering local filmmakers.

For a long time, TV has dominated viewership but will it continue to do so for years to come? The growth of over-the-top (OTT) business, led by the increasing penetration of smartphone, has significantly changed how we consume content the world over.

From video streaming to the video-on-demand platform, OTT has become so mainstream that even TV and cable channels are rapidly expanding into OTT as the competition to command eyeballs reaches new heights. In Malaysia, Astro introduced Astro Go while Media Prima partnered with regional OTT video service Viu.

I believe that in ten years’ time, it’s going to be all digital. There will be no switching channels anymore.

Astro has also recently partnered with China-based online entertainment service provider iQIYI as it seeks to extend its reach in the content world, which has become more personal and digital.

“When people talk about traditional media versus internet, I believe that in ten years’ time, it’s going to be all digital. There will be no switching channels anymore,” says Mark Britt, co-founder of co-founder streaming platform iflix.

 “What’s interesting is that millennials are consuming more media than ever before. The idea of sitting back on the couch and letting someone else tell what to watch at 8:30 pm seems so quaint and old,” he adds. Britt was among the speakers at the Wild Digital Conference in Kuala Lumpur recently.

'The future of entertainment consumption through the internet' - Co-Founder of iflix

Founded in 2014, many media observers saw iflix as just ‘another Netflix’ in Southeast Asia - albeit without the deep pockets to spend billions of dollars in coming up with original content.

But Britt is optimistic that iflix’s approach to focus on local content that resonates with regional audiences will pay off.

“Our focus is on local content in every single market we are in. We produce everything that is entertaining locally and we are focused on millennials. In fact, our platform looks more like Instagram now than Netflix,” says Britt. 

“I don’t think that the US companies like Netflix really get Southeast Asia. They like to think that everything looks like America. But I have lived here for the last 15 years, it is nothing like America.”

“Netflix is amazing if you’re educated overseas and you really like Western content. But that’s a really small percentage of the community here. So as an entrepreneur, you have to have a naive belief that the impossible is possible,” he says with conviction.

'Empowering local storytellers is important for the industry' - Co-Founder of iflix

Earlier this year, iflix announced a USD5 million programme to find 30 filmmakers across four of its largest markets, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines, to produce content for the platform.

“It’s the stories that come out of the local culture that is unique to each market,”

It is a 12-month initiative programme that will run alongside Next 10 Ventures, a digital content platform founded by ex-Youtube executive Benjamin Grubbs to help filmmakers pursue their artistic passion. 

“It’s the stories that come out of the local culture that is unique to each market,” says Britt. “But historically the entertainment industry here in Southeast Asia has been so dominated by big Western markets to a point that local creators talents don’t get the funding and focus it needs.

“Local producers are often not allowed the creativity or the breadth to do so due to financial constraint.

“We are a company that is driven by purpose, we want to entertain everybody. We believe in local culture so we believe a part of our responsibility is to empower the local creators, the local storytellers.

“So it’s probably a program that we are most excited about. As of now, we don’t have anything to announce, but the program is underway. We have started with the first five filmmakers. They are incredible,”  he adds.

The OTT battle in Southeast Asia

Iflix is not alone in empowering local filmmakers in its bid to capture a regional audience. Local media companies are doing so as well, including Astro Shaw which has produced over 75 titles across various genres for the local and regional markets.

We also ask Britt how will data come into OTT advertising, another key area for growth for streaming and on-demand service providers.

“The media industry deals with one that is multi-faceted, fragmented and data-driven.

“After years of operation, we get about two billion data signals every single day. Now, we’re able to take all the data and help us build a perspective and understanding about the audience. 

“The media industry deals with one that is multi-faceted, fragmented and data-driven.

The ability to deliver the right advertisement to the right audience is the holy grail for marketers – and data derived from OTT platforms have that capability to serve that need.

“We are taking those data signals and making it available to the advertisers.

“So an FCMG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) marketer or a travel marketer can now reach the exact audience they are looking for, in real time on premium television shows,” he adds.

Iflix is now in 22 markets globally with no plans of expansion, except to go deeper into the market. Britt says: “We want to be the leading local internet television for every 22 markets we are in.”

“We’re very focused on millennials, people under the age of 35, which is the majority of people in Southeast Asia. Our content includes news. We have over 400 news clips from 15 global news channels. It also includes over 1500 live sports games.

“The next five to ten years will be very interesting for all of us. I believe we will come to a point where all content consumption is done through the internet. It’s going to be very exciting,” he says.