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Asia-specific content must become a priority for Disney if it’s to compete in APAC


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

February 3, 2021 | 5 min read

Disney will launch its Disney+ over-the-top streaming service in Singapore on 23 February. The Drum looks at what the entry of Disney+ will mean for the market.

Disney+ has joined the ranks of OTT streaming services operating in Singapore, increasing competition for established platforms such as Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Viu.

It promises viewers six content strands including Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic and Star, for a fee of S$11.98 a month or S$119.98 a year, while customers of broadcaster StarHub will be able to enjoy up to two years of access to Disney+.

Singapore is assumed to be the first market globally to launch Disney+ with all six content strands.

While it boasts of an upcoming slate that includes Marvel Studios’ WandaVision, The Mandalorian, and Grey’s Anatomy, the only Asian content on its slate is Raya and the Last Dragon, Walt Disney Animation Studio's fantasy film, which will be released through Disney+ Premier Access alongside its theatrical release on 5 March this year.

Laura Quigley, senior vice president, for Asia Pacific at Integral Ad Science, says local and exclusive content needs to be the way forward for Disney+ if the platform is looking to make a dent in the region.

She says Asian-specific shows and a strong library of content must become a priority for Disney+ if it wants to attract new subscribers that are not fans of Disney’s back catalogue or western-made content in general. Quigley says this could include content popular in the region such as anime, Asian dramas, local reality and game shows, documentaries and standup comedy.

“If you look at successful global players in the region – their impressive growth reflects their ability to constantly improve their service by examining viewership data and using that data to guide the company’s efforts in quality of experience and quality of service improvements,” she explains.

“The content library is an important piece of its subscriber acquisition and retention strategy.”

Kosuke Sogo, the chief executive officer and co-founder of AnyMind Group, suggests Disney can partner with local production houses, talent and content creators in producing Asia-first content, which can also become a means to scout talent for international productions.

For example, Disney acquired Indian platform Hotstar in 2019 and merged its Disney+ programming with that platform. This was seen as way to acquire Hotstar’s 300 million users and gain a foothold in a crowded market.

“So far, we’ve seen two distinct moves: entering a market as Disney+ Hotstar, and partnering up with local network operators. Both moves provide users with access to both Disney content and locally created content,” he explains.

On the other hand, Anthony Tsang, director of business development for APAC at SpotX, argues that international content is still popular. He notes that out of all the global platforms, Disney+ has the strongest IP. Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars are incredibly popular in Asia.

He reckons this is a powerful differentiator that will accelerate subscriptions straight out of the gate, giving them time to identify a market-specific and culturally aware content strategy that will future-proof them in the long run.

“It’s all about the IP. Disney+ is in a league of its own. Not only is awareness of their talent, characters and content ubiquitous, but they also have years of experience securing promotional partnerships and merchandising deals. As a result, they have built deep relationships with local brands that appeal right across the spectrum of their target audience groups,” he explains.

“Consumers are primed for this kind of marketing and with this framework and process already in place it would come as no surprise to see them take a similar approach for the launch of Disney+. Additionally, distribution deals will be key and Disney has the clout to secure key partnerships with regional/local telcos and OEMs to have the app preinstalled.”

As content production for an OTT environment is tremendously capital intensive and costs for developing content will only grow, it is likely that subscriptions won’t be able to cover the costs alone. Disney+ will ultimately need to rely on an advertising video-on-demand model similar to the one employed by Disney’s other OTT platform, Hulu.

Quigley says Disney should consider the living standard and spending power of viewers in SEA who may not be able to sustain more than one subscription video-on-demand platform. The answer may be to find a way to be the best, most sought-after streaming service in the industry.

She points to a recent IAS report in Indonesia, which showed 92% of Indonesian consumers have increased their consumption of streaming content during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Subscription fatigue has set in, and almost 9 out of 10 people surveyed mentioned have added free streaming during the lockdown with 84% of consumers willing to see ads in exchange for free streaming video,” she explains.

“The future of streaming seems to be ad-supported and companies may be looking advertising video-on-demand or a hybrid approach of SVOD +AVOD. They should look at flexible bundling and adding more payment options to Disney+ for target consumers."

The Drum looked at why the now-defunct Hooq, a Singapore-based OTT joint venture between Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Singtel, filed for liquidation and shut down for good.

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