How Asian Streamer Viu Is Fighting Off Global Competition –

special: Pan-regional streaming service Viu, owned by Hong Kong telco and media group PCCW, has been one of the biggest local success stories in Southeast Asia, holding its own against the entry of global giants including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. is stopped.

According to data from Media Partners Asia (MPA), the streamer ranks first in terms of monthly active users (MAUs) across Southeast Asia, and third in paid subscribers behind Disney+ and Netflix. In the first half of 2022, Viu’s MAUs grew 23% to 60.7 million, while paid subscribers grew 31% to 9.1 million.


Viu’s ‘freemium’ business model and partnerships with regional telcos and other tech providers have contributed to this success, but as Marianne Lee, head of content for Asia, explains, it’s a nimble and highly localized content. It also depends on the strategy.

“We serve a very young audience,” says Lee, who joined Viu last year from WarnerMedia in the role of chief of content acquisition and development for Asia (Viu ​​Middle East and South also works as a streamer and content producer in Africa).

“Our audience is young and they’re digital natives. They may have skipped that pay-TV phase and gone straight to watching content on their mobile phones. We’re also a mass audience, so Hong In Kong we aim for Cantonese speakers, and in Malaysia we aim for Malay speaking audiences.


This gives Viu a slightly different positioning to global streamers, which are now starting to move into the mass market in Southeast Asia, but initially to a slightly older, professional audience with a higher ability to pay. Had a target.


Marian Lee

Launched in 2015, a year before Netflix entered the region, Viu debuted in Korean dramas and Japanese anime, two content categories that run across the region, and has expanded into Chinese and Southeast Asian languages. It has also expanded to offer content. K-drama alone accounts for 38% of premium viewing in Southeast Asia, according to MPA data. Asked to explain the success of the Korean content, Lee summed it up: “Beautiful sets, beautiful people and the editing is very charming.”

Of course, in the past few years, the demand for Korean content has reached such heights that it has become prohibitively expensive. But Lee explains that Viu is leveraging long-standing relationships with all Korean broadcasters, including CJ ENM, JTBC, SBS and public broadcasters, and is now also starting to move upwards.


Typically, Viu acquires international rights to K-dramas and dubs them to its streaming markets immediately after they air in Korea. It also syndicates to Asian territories where it does not operate as a streamer, including Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as further afield. Lee points to Viu Original. The born-again richStarring Song Joong Ki (Vincenzo), as a good example of how streamers are now onboarding shows a long time ago – in this case working with broadcaster JTBC and its production arm Studio LuluLala (SLL).

“We had already built these relationships with broadcasters, and now we’re working more closely with production houses,” explains Lee. “That means we get involved much earlier, having input on the casting and the script. Of course it’s competitive – everyone wants an ‘S grade.’ [Super Grade] series, but we’re not all chasing the same content, as we all have a specific demographic in mind.

The same simulcast strategy is used for Korean variety shows and other formats, though Lee says that when you’re working with unscripted shows, subtitling and outputting content on his platform is a good idea. Obviously very difficult.

Viu has also found success by tapping into other hot content trends. Chinese content is also starting to make inroads across the region, Li says: “We’ve seen that the costume, fantasy, palace genres do really well in Chinese-speaking markets. [Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia]While contemporary urban dramas may go beyond these areas to Thailand and Indonesia.


But he predicts that the next big wave could be Thai content, including BL [Boys’ Love] A genre that is growing huge in Asia but largely unknown in the West. starting in ‘Shonen‘ A genre of Japanese manga, BL features handsome young men engaged in (usually fairly) heteros*xual relationships, but is mostly used by young women and teenage girls.

Vive’s Thai BL hits include. close friendwhich features six couples of men experiencing different forms of love, but ‘straight’ Thai series are also doing well – including rom-coms. My bubble tea and romantic drama Finding the Rainbow, both star Nichkun, a Thai-American star who is also a member of the K-pop band 2PM. “The Thai industry really knows how to position and market its stars,” says Lee. “They have learned a lot from the Korean industry and are doing big shows. Finding the Rainbow We have Nichkun’s second project – a beautifully shot, epic love story from the early 1990s to the present day.”


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Finding the Rainbow

But other Southeast Asian regions are also in turmoil. Apart from Thailand, Viv has production offices in Malaysia, where it has produced a crime drama. black And romcoms She was beautiful., both derived from Korean IP; Philippines, where Viu Originals includes music-based series. even then And K-Love, described as an ‘Ode to K-drama’. and Indonesia, where adaptations of recent shows are included. pretty little liarsAlready in season 2, and Bad Boys vs Crazy Girlsabout rebellious students who plan to escape from their boarding school.

Statement Bad Boys vs Crazy Girls As a “guilty pleasure” she likes to see herself, Lee says all these Southeast Asian markets are maturing rapidly. “For example, Indonesia is pushing past adaptations, and the team there is doing a great job of engaging scriptwriters and picking interesting IPs.”

Back home in Hong Kong, Viu’s sister free-to-air broadcaster ViuTV is bringing young audiences back to Cantonese-language content with youth-focused dramas, variety shows and hot boy bands. Mirror, the first true Canto-pop breakout in many years. This local content, which Viu subtitles and simulcasts across the region, reverses the trend of Hong Kong’s youth to turn away from old-fashioned local TV and instead turn to English-language shows.

However, Lee explains that the Hong Kong market is slightly different from Southeast Asia. Viu’s Hong Kong audience is young, but not as young as elsewhere, and it’s a market that embraces live-action Japanese drama in addition to anime. Japanese BL show Osan’s love It was so popular in Hong Kong that it resulted in a Cantonese remake.

“Hong Kong has a very long history of using Japanese content,” says Lee, who is from Hong Kong himself and has also worked for global studios and broadcasters in Singapore. “We are very influenced by Japanese culture. During the pandemic, all my friends complained that they couldn’t go to Japan, and everyone called it their second home.

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