The content and video market in Asia Pacific highly fragmented and cluttered with a host of competing players. Those ranks have increased with the entrance of newbie Quibi, the video startup launched in April by Hollywood mogul Jeffery Katzenberg.
While platforms vie for market dominance, OTT video consumption has increased further amid Covid-19 stay-at-home measures, competition has only intensified. In late April, Netflix announced it added more than 15.7 million subscribers in the first three months of 2020, around the time the coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19) officially became a pandemic and nationwide lockdowns began across the globe.
With APAC’s diversity and many cultural nuances, Sharon Soh, head of integrated strategy and marketing for APAC at Universal McCann, says local content has been critical to success for many of the existing players and notes that recent consumption preferences have also shifted towards original productions.
“On the surface, Quibi appears to compete with other subscription-based OTT platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and the many more regional and local players in APAC. In reality, it will also be up against the likes of YouTube and TikTok, especially given its short-form video content,” she explains to The Drum.
“Therefore, while being mobile-only and catering to both horizontal or vertical orientation will certainly appeal to a region stuck on their mobile devices, Quibi will have to show relevance and a point of difference in the content that they offer. Consumers here are typically not willing to pay for content, or are used to affordable content.”
Tay Guan Hin, the founder and global chief creative officer at TGH Collective, has been one of the early adopters of Quibi and says he subscribed to the platform even before it launched.
Referring to Quibi’s support for seamless horizontal or vertical viewing, he suggests the platform can provide an immersive viewing experience to suit a range of viewing habits.
“I enjoyed Most Dangerous Game, starring Liam Hemsworth, who signs up as the prey in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse because he needs the money,” says the global former executive creative director at J Walter Thompson (now Wunderman Thompson).
“However, to be successful in APAC, Quibi needs to understand the Asian market. What type of shows appeals to us? Who are the famous stars that relate well to Asians, and why?”
He adds: “What sort of genres do we prefer? Previous American TV shows that are popular in Asia include Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, 2 Broke Girls, and House of Cards, among many others. Perhaps Quibi should study why some American shows are popular here to create new episodes to fit what we like. Since each show takes some time to build characters and introduce engaging story arcs, understanding mobile behavior must be carefully considered when crafting for future shows.”
Vertical video is not new to APAC
As Tay mentioned, Quibi introduced its ‘Turnstyle’ technology, which seamlessly switches between landscape and portrait video orientations depending on how you hold your phone, to stand apart from competitors.
It also aims to target a younger demographic with content that delivers bite-size content of episodes or mini-chapters running 10 minutess or less, called ‘Quick Bites’.
However, these are not new features to APAC.
Soh points out that Baidu’s iQiyi, one of China’s largest and most established video streaming services, recently moved into the vertical video category by tapping into its strength in entertainment and lifestyle content to include youth-focused content, magazine shows, comedy, and lifestyle-focused videos on its Vertical Zone.
She says the new channel also features new original productions shot in portrait mode as well as interview clips and behind the scenes footage from highly successful past original productions like The Rap of China.
iQiyi has also said that it has already converted massive quantities of horizontal videos into the vertical format. By producing quality entertainment and lifestyle content, it has taken a headstart in the vertical video space, enabling iQiyi to retain existing users and attract new audiences.
Then there‘s TikTok. Known as Douyin in China, the platform has 500 million registered users and counting; it's probably the hottest app in the world.
Soh says that as the pioneer of the vertical short-form user-generated videos that have taken the world by storm, TikTok‘s success will be difficult to follow. In addition, she points to the platform‘s growing subcultures and micro-communities which are creating a virtuous cycle of sticky content and actively engaged users. It will be hard to steal its users in the short-term.
“TikTok has cornered the user-generated content category across APAC but its profile is heavily skewed towards Gen Z – and iQiyi is currently limited to professionally produced content mainly in the Chinese language and for China,” explains Soh.
“Perhaps beyond China, in the professionally produced content space and against the younger working adult demographic, Quibi could potentially play well. Nevertheless, having content that consumers would be willing to pay for and a business model that is viable for this region and its target market would still be the imperative.”
Agreeing, Tay says there are fundamental differences between TikTok, iQiyi, and Quibi.
This is because even though all three apps target younger viewers that spend most of their time on their phones, they‘ve each come to market with different types of content. “Despite a massive marketing campaign, the launch of Quibi's app reached 300,000 downloads, significantly less than when Disney+ launched last year. Compared to TikTok, which is free to use and share, both iQiyi and Quibi charge,” he says
“Initially, the blocking of capturing video screenshots and recordings in Quibi makes it tough for viewers to share, but Katzenberg told The New York Times that it would be fixed soon.”
He continues: “For Quibi to compete, it's critical that their shows and content are relatable and relevant to our market. No matter how well-produced each episode is, if the characters and stories aren't engaging, it's not going to compete with TikTok.”
Will APAC consumers pay for Quibi?
As more players in the busy APAC video marketplace begin to monetise by charging users, consumers in the region are becoming more used to paying for content. But Soh does not believe they will be willing to pay to watch mobile short-form content with ads, either horizontally or vertically.
She says consumers are already conditioned to existing subscription models, from ads-free to ads funded and ‘sachet’ or tiered models. She suggests that many will likely pay for one or two platforms, perhaps sample another one or two and try to download the rest.
“With myriad options avilable to satisfy their content consumption needs, the consumer is king, evaluating platforms on their value propositions based on both brand and content,” she explains.
“They are asking: why do I need to pay? How much do I need to pay? What’s in it for me?‘”
Tay signed up for Quibi before April 30, which means he is currently enjoying a 90-day free trial. He notes that currently, there is no specific pricing for Asia currency yet, compared to the US, where where viewers may pay for an ad-supported tier at US$4.99 and an ad-free tier priced at US$7.99.
Quibi promises that no more than 2.5 minutess of ads would be shown hourly.
“Even though Quibi has produced fantastic high-end content in building this brand new video platform, the subscription fee feels like a massive barrier in an increasingly busy streaming market,” Tay explains.
“No doubt, creating TV shows content around the changing ways we watch a video on a mobile format in the future is going to pick up. But eventually, that $4.99 per month (and more if you're living outside the US) might be an obstacle if we already watch free video content from Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram on-the-go.
He adds praise for the Turnstyle feature: “In some shows, it'll change the way you see the story – Wireless, a thriller series, allowed me to shift the POV depending on how I hold my phone, with the vertical mode allowing me to see how things unfold on the lead character's smartphone.”
Tay says he is excited to see how Quibi's Turnstyle feature will impact how stories are told in the future. He believes it will ultimately convince people to pay for the platform. For example, Steven Spielberg's new horror series After Dark will take advantage of a viewers’ device clock to ensure the show’s title is entirely literal, only allowing viewers to tune in at night.
“It’ll be interesting to see what other standard phone functions Quibi can exploit on their future releases. As long as Quibi continues to innovate and harness creativity using storytelling, I firmly believe audiences will pay to experience content not found on other platforms.“
The Drum previously looked at what marketers need to know when advertising on Quibi.