Online streaming giants battle for Asian audiences

This image released by Netflix shows Timothée Chalamet, center, in a scene from "The King."
Updated 15 October 2019

Online streaming giants battle for Asian audiences

BUSAN, South Korea: Acclaimed director David Michod’s epic “The King” was one of four major Netflix productions screened at Asia’s largest film festival this week, underlining how streaming services are increasingly challenging Hollywood and traditional media for the attention of artists — and viewers.
Asia is seen as an important part of the global streaming industry’s growth plan. In conjunction with the main event, Busan International Film Festival also hosted its first Asia Contents Awards reflecting how the market is rapidly changing.
“They gave us the resources and the freedom to make this properly,” Michod said of working with Netflix.
“I like that I don’t feel I am sacrificing myself at the altar of the box office,” he added.
So called over-the-top (OTT) platforms or video-on-demand (VOD) — online services that viewers can access directly such as Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu and Apple TV — are booming.
Hollywood stars including Julia Roberts, Rooney Mara, Brad Pitt and Will Smith, have embraced streaming as audiences grow.
“If people want to can go see (films) on the big screen they can, but my TV at home is amazing,” Michod explained.
Disney and Apple are set to launch their platforms across Asia Pacific this year, capitalizing on growing mobile usage and rapidly improving access to faster speed Internet.
Vivek Couto, executive director at research group Media Partners Asia, believes the region is “crucial” to the plans of global streaming platforms as there are “massive prospects to go after.”
Online video revenue — predominantly from film and TV subscriptions as well as advertising — in the region will increase by 24 percent in 2019, making it worth $27 billion annually, according to a report by Couto’s firm.
That figure is predicted to hit $50 billion by 2024.
China accounts for around 59 percent of revenue for the region in 2019, according to the report — but its strict regulations make access difficult for outside players with local platforms iQIYI, Tencent Video and Youku dominating.
Google-owned YouTube earns the largest share of revenues in Asia, but Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney’s Indian platform Hotstar have all experienced significant growth in the past few years.
“Local content has historically been the preserve of large incumbent TV networks in markets such as India, Japan and Korea but as content and consumption moves online the availability and creation of premium local content becomes important,” said Couto.
He added this would drive up demand, and create opportunities for subscription streaming and for advertisers.
HBO Asia had the world premiere of its star-studded Malaysian co-production “The Garden of Evening Mists” at BIFF.
The film is pan-Asian by design — starring Malaysian Lee Sinjee, Japan’s Hiroshi Abe, and Taiwan’s Sylvia Chang — but global in ambition.
“VOD platforms widen the distribution and amplify the presence of these Asian films to global audiences,” the film’s producers said in a statement to AFP.
Netflix is rolling out 17 Asian productions, with the platform’s first series from Thailand expected to debut by the end of the year.
Despite the arrival of global giants, local platforms believe they can hold their own.
The Southeast Asian HOOQ platform this week announced 19 productions were in the works all made by film-makers from the region.
“As a company that is built in Asia for Asians, we believe that local stories are best told by locals,” argued Jennifer Batty, the company’s chief content officer.
Singapore-based documentary streaming service iwonder recently expanded into eight new southeast Asian markets
“As we expand our offerings, a key focus will be finding documentaries from within those markets, accessing local voices who shine their own unique light on their world,” said the platform’s co-founder James Bridges.
Adapting content to audiences needs will be vital to success.
Around 250 million people regularly watch films on their mobile devices in India.
In response, Netflix introduced a mobile-only version of its streaming, but Asian firms may have the edge on understanding what local audiences want.
“Where I think companies like ours in Asia have the edge is that we are up with the trends out here instantly. We are addressing the way people watch content in Asia,” said Indian producer Ekta Kapoor, managing director of the VoD service ALT Balaji.
She added: “We are making shows designed to be watched on mobile devices, not adapted for them. Shorter-form, about local characters and issues. That puts us ahead.”

‘Juhayman: 40 years on:’ Arab News takes a Deep Dive into Saudi history with a multimedia look at the siege of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Updated 19 November 2019

‘Juhayman: 40 years on:’ Arab News takes a Deep Dive into Saudi history with a multimedia look at the siege of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

  • Featuring interviews with key players such as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s English-language newspaper tells the full story of the unthinkable event that cast a shadow over its society for decades
  • As part of its Deep Dive series online, featuring documentary-style multimedia stories, Arab News looks back at this event in a way no Saudi publication has done before

Forty years ago this week, on Nov. 20, 1979, a group of militants did the unthinkable: They seized the Grand Mosque in Makkah, taking people hostage inside in a two-week standoff with Saudi forces.

Until recently, the crisis remained too painful for Saudis to examine fully for almost four decades. Now Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s leading English-language daily, is looking back at the event in a way that no publication in the Kingdom has done before: with a multimedia Deep Dive story online at

“The 1979 attack on Makkah’s  Grand Mosque halted major social development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, negatively affecting a progressing nation for generations to come,” said Rawan Radwan, the lead reporter on the project, who is based in Jeddah. “At Arab News, we delved deep into the matter to uncover the story of Juhayman, the terrorist who seized the holiest site and shook the Islamic world. It’s a story that for many years struck fear in the hearts of the Saudi people, yet has not been covered in such depth in local or international media — until now.”

Arab News launched its Deep Dive series earlier this year as an engaging new way to showcase its in-depth storytelling on key topics, enlivened by audio, video and animated graphics. Its first story was an in-depth account of the space mission by the first Arab astronaut, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman; the siege of Makkah is another story from the Kingdom’s past that it chose to revisit.

Extensive research was conducted over two months in several cities, including Makkah itself, and involved teams in five of Arab News’ bureaus: Jeddah, Riyadh, Dubai, London and Beirut. The team interviewed key players such as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, then head of the General Intelligence Directorate, and re-created what happened in a series of interactive maps.


Juhayman: 40 years on
On the anniversary of the 1979 attack on Makkah's Grand Mosque, Arab News tells the full story of an unthinkable event that shocked the Islamic world and cast a shadow over Saudi society for decades