Telecommunications companies are angling for 'the next level'

Key Points
  • Telecommunications companies throughout Asia Pacific are eyeing content to take their businesses further.
  • Some firms are tweaking their revenue models.
The changing face of telecommunications companies

Content is still king.

That's the message from media executives at the 2018 APOS summit, in Bali, but it's not platforms such as Netflix or YouTube that have everyone talking this year. It was the telecommunications companies like Singapore's Singtel, the Philippines' Globe Telecom and Australia's Optus.

In some ways, it seemed those firms had been deemed the new media companies.

James Jeng, president of Taiwan Mobile, told CNBC there is one word representing his company: "That one word is T-I-M-E. T-I-M-E. T stands for telco, we are a telco company. I stands for internet, we are an internet company. M stands for Media and Entertainment. E stands for e-commerce."

Meanwhile, Yuen Kuan Moon, CEO of Consumer Singapore for Singtel, said connectivity is the starting point for everything else.

"We are talking about how telcos can create an ecosystem for content players, for media, and what's the role we play. So I think that role has shifted," he said. "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."

Television remains a 'very scalable beast': Analyst

Content investment is expected to rise to $30.1 billion by 2023 in the Asia Pacific region excluding China, according to Vivek Couto from Media Partners Asia. Such growth, he said, can largely be attributed to dollars spent across online video, which will account for 17 percent of content investment by 2023 versus 10 percent in 2018.

And with that growth in mind, revenue models are still being tweaked. Regional player Iflix this week announced the launch of Iflix 3.0, shifting its model from subscription based service, to one provided free to the mass market.

Mark Britts, CEO and co-founder of Iflix, said he wants the company to be ubiquitous and that the only way to do that is to be free.

But, according to PCCW Media Group Managing Director Janice Lee, there is space for both revenue models.

Discussing the potential for digital advertising

"More people coming into the market trying to monetize on both ads and subscriptions tells us that the audience is there, big enough for advertisers to take notice and to want to monetize and reach out to their core consumers. But at the same time, subscription continues to grow in these markets."

Digital TV Research estimated there will be 234 million "subscription video on demand" subscribers in the region by 2022, up from 91 million in 2016.

And competition is fierce for those viewers, whether it be from international players like Netflix, HBO and Disney or the smaller players like Iflix and Viu.

Even well know players like Discovery, are continuing to fight for every subscriber.

JB Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery Networks International, also embraced the shifting nature of the industry: "We are a content company, we are an IP company, but we are increasingly a tech company. And I think, for us, what we see in the landscape of media, is there is a lot of people chasing one ball, which is big scripted entertainment."