Who’s seen Deadpool yet? I went to a special sneak preview at the cinemat two days before its official opening while visiting a client in Kuala Lumpur. As a fan of super heroes and black comedy, this ticked all the boxes.
Malaysia is known for having some strict censorship rules, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the content had hardly been censored at all. I did note that the cinema was only half-full.
This gave me two thoughts.
1) The regulators of Pay TV could exploit the changes occurring in cinema as well as their own field to evolve their own rules, with possible opt-in/opt-out options for viewers on digital platforms.
2) The fact a cinema was only half-full at a special pre-launch showing for a movie with so much hype must mean consumers here in Malaysia are capable of making up their own minds on what is right for them and their beliefs. In other words they are exhibiting self-censorship.
This is largely why piracy continues to boom in SEA. It is not so much because the content is free or even cheaper from pirates, but more that it is uncensored, which means consumers are often willing to pay more for it. This flies in the face of censorship and we see publicly funded initiatives that do not produce the desired results in these countries. Regulators now have an opportunity to modernize their practices and help Pay TV operators remain competitive as new OTT players in the region provide another alternative alongside the ever-present piracy offering.
Perhaps it’s time for content classifications to be modernized? Adding a censorship classification, e.g. ‘Halal versus Non Halal’, to content would enable Pay TV operators to relax their censorship regulations in the multicultural world we live in today. Most consumers would feel happy to make their own self-censorship decisions and piracy would finally have a strong competitor in this region. Until censorship regulations are relaxed or at least modernized, piracy will continue to flourish and Pay TV operators will remain constrained and threatened.
Meanwhile the launch of pure play OTT TV services such as iFlix, Hooq and most recently the arrival of Netflix across almost the whole of SE Asia in one go, can be viewed as a threat to pay TV operators. But Netflix’ arrival in particular could also accelerate the process of ending these outdated and counter-productive censorship rules.
OTT itself then can be an ally in the campaign to modernize censorship, even if in the short term there may be some restrictions imposed against mostly US based OTT providers. Already in Indonesia for example, soon after its launch in January 2016, Netflix was blocked by the country’s largest broadband service provided Telekom Indonesia.
Yet for the time being it looks like censorship will continue to be a reality with which most SEA pay TV operators will have to live, just as much as piracy is. Given this situation operators can find clues over how to navigate their way through these various obstacles to success by analyzing more clearly what their subscribers really want and what their habits are. There is a strong culture of sharing and consumers being prepared to find content they want, often purchasing DVDs or Blu-Ray disks available retail at the same price as on TV and then passing them along to friends and family. OperatoOTT_Asia_Pacific_Genius_Digital_2rs should also note that one size doesn’t fit all and OTT providers offering no censorship to everyone is perhaps just as problematic as Pay TV operators having to censor everything.
Operators then need to find ways of targeting their subscribers more effectively and convenience to beat the pirates and retailers. This is where Big Data analytics informed by accurate viewer data coupled with the knowledge about their subscribers that operators can really make a difference.
If operators can segment their subscribers effectively and work out which ones can legitimately receive uncensored content for example, it will help operators increase retention and viewership through personalization, and be in a better position to upsell content. Operators can identify segments that can opt-in to watch uncensored content and navigate the whole regulatory environment much more efficiently. This is an important aspect of Big Data analytics that is fairly specific to SE Asia and likely to remain so for some time to come. Meanwhile we all of course wait for the time when censorship rules are relaxed as we believe will happen eventually, at least in most of the region’s countries. Then the full power of analytics can become the next driver of growth, as the TV market will then have a level playing field that will see Pay TV operators and OTT players compete more effectively to combat piracy.