This article is part of our July series about the state of media and entertainment. Click here for more.
The proliferation of mobile technology in Asia-Pacific is such that the smallest screens of all are driving considerable content consumption. And that, no surprise, has been a boon for a variety of homegrown brands, all clamoring to succeed in a region where 70% of the population regularly use a smartphone to access the internet.
Case in point: Choovie, a customer-facing app that prices cinema tickets according to demand. To be sure, an app that influences what movie-goers choose to see on the big screen is an interesting business model.
“We know that seeing a movie on the big screen is still a preferred way to view content and that over 70% of Australians still see at least one movie each year at a cinema,” said Sonya Stephen, co-founder and CEO of Melbourne-based Choovie. “We also know the key reason people don’t attend the cinema more often is price, and what we found [when starting Choovie] was an industry that has failed to take advantage of mobile and digital technology.”
The concept for Choovie borrows from a model most recognisable in the airline and hotel industries, wherein low occupancy levels allow for cheaper options for consumers. For Stephen, it came about one Wednesday afternoon when she and Shane Thatcher, her partner/Choovie co-founder, visited a local cinema, where only five other people were sitting in the same room for the movie. Wondering what was going on, they bypassed the ushers and snuck into the other 12 rooms, only to find 28 people.
“That’s 30-odd people across 13 screens, and they were still charging $23 per ticket. Shane’s an economist, and to him it just didn’t make sense,” she told CMO.com. “In a high, fixed-cost business--where the product is perishable and every additional dollar goes straight to the bottom line--if people aren’t buying what you’re selling, you drop the price.”
Uptake has been promising from vendors and consumers alike. By the end of this year, Stephen said, Choovie will have 80-plus cinemas on board.
“Chooviegoers buy, on average, 13 tickets a year, which is in excess of the Australian average, which is 8.6 tickets a year last year, and only 6.6 in 2016,” Stephen said. “When you present a new way of doing things to any industry, you have to present stats and facts to back up your theory, and this is exactly what we did.”
China In The Spotlight
Australia isn’t the only APAC country where the cinema is still a drawcard. Variety reports that China’s theatrical box office took in $8.6 billion in 2017 and surpassed North America as the world leader in the first quarter of this year.
In addition, by 2020, China will become the world’s new film production centre and is expected to have over 60,000 cinema screens nationwide, according to Zhang Hongsen, deputy director of China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT).
Nevertheless, access to theatres for the millions of people outside of China’s major cities remains a challenge, one that Smart Cinema is tackling head on. Smart Cinema is an app that offers new-release movies to China’s billion-plus mobile users within their theatrical run. Consumers pay the full ticket price, using China’s popular mobile payment systems, such as Alipay and WeChat Wallet, to purchase. They then receive a KDM (key delivery message) that is valid for one screening; end-to-end encryption is employed to avoid piracy.
Smart Cinema’s CEO, Jack Gao, told Variety: “Market segmentation and targeted distribution for a movie will be quite feasible and efficient. This is an open platform encouraging producers and studios to create competent quality contents, meanwhile nourishing Chinese audiences’ demand and sophistication.”
Changing Role Of The Telco
According to app market data firm App Annie, APAC accounts for almost half of all worldwide mobile video consumption on Android devices—totaling a whopping 40 billion hours from 2015 to 2017.
A portion of those hours—around 22.84 billion minutes since it launched—can be attributed to Malaysian-based streaming provider iflix, which in May passed the 15 million subscriber mark, a growth of 250% since January.
Part of iflix’s success has stemmed from its partnership with telecommunications companies across APAC, which are increasingly realising the important role they play in the region’s content consumption.
"We are talking about how telcos can create an ecosystem for content players, for media, and what's the role we play,” said Yuen Kuan Moon, CEO of Consumer Singapore for Singtel, in an interview with CNBC. “So I think that role has shifted. It used to be only TV broadcasters, but now telco is the future and how we can use telco relationships with our customers to bring the industry to the next level."
With global powerhouse Netflix expanding its presence in the region, the need for local competitors such as iflix to differentiate themselves is pressing. One way iflix is doing that is by doubling down on its commitment to provide region-specific content.
“In most markets, you have three or four local entrepreneurs or local services they’re also competing for the same content. And for the past three years, many people in the industry, including us, made the mistake in believing that Western content was very important. And so in that world, you have lots of people competing for Western content, and the competition is very intense,” iflix CEO Mark Britt told Deal Street Asia. “Now we realise two things: Local or regional content is far more important and that actually created an overlapping between iflix and Netflix. In terms of content types, it’s 1% of our libraries.”
Puting their money where their mouth is, iflix has significantly increased its acquisition and commissioning of local content, with the aim of quadrupling its commissioning slate by 2019 with 12 original television series, 30 feature movies, and 75 short-form films.
ONE Championship In The Ring
Movies and online video are all well and good, but you can’t talk about APAC-specific entertainment without including mixed martial arts. Singapore-based ONE Championship is not only the world’s largest martial arts organization, it is also a great example of a brand that has harnessed mobile technology to build its content strategy and expand its audience.
“More and more people are veering away from traditional media, such as print and television, and are gravitating towards digital platforms such as live and on-demand streaming,” said ONE Championship founder, chairman, and CEO Chatri Sityodtong, who will be speaking at the Adobe Singapore Symposium on Aug. 21. “This is a game-changer in the world of martial arts because now people have easy access to martial arts right in the palm of their hand.”
ONE Championship has a presence across online, social media, pay-per-view, broadcast, and mobile channels. Of these, Sityodtong notes the crucial roles mobile and social media play in ensuring a steady stream of content is available to the ONE Championship online community.
“ONE Championship places a heavy focus on building and maintaining our social media and online platforms,” Sityodtong said.
It has paid off. In data released by Nielsen, Facebook, and Repucom, ONE Championship’s audience has shown exponential growth from 2014 to 2017.
The data shows that the organisation has grown from 352 million social media impressions to 4 billion. With the rise of digital and online video, ONE has also catapulted their video viewership numbers from 312,000 to a whopping 314 million.
“We always continue to target new fans by positioning martial arts as not just a sport that you can watch and be entertained by, but also a way to promote a better quality of life,” Sityodtong said.