CASBAA: OTT is an industry to watch

TV Everywhere and OTT TV created some sharp debate during the first day of the CASBAA Convention 2011 in Hong Kong.  The onset of new and global Internet-delivered TV services such as Hulu, Netflix and iplayer as extensions of traditional cable, satellite and IPTV systems was declared as “inevitable” by many speakers and delegates drawn from Asia and the rest of the world.

“You can’t stop the OTT revolution,” said Johannes Larcher, SVP of International, Hulu. “There are many incremental revenues to be made from OTT.”

Yet the question remains “Who will pay?” and how will content and multichannel TV platform operators monetise and retain revenues while engaging with “authorised” customers?

In the opening session of the day on the changing world of TV, Blair Westlake, Corporate VP, Media & Entertainment Group at Microsoft shared his anticipation that the evolution of the smart, digitally “Connected TV” could soon match the speed of collaborative innovation witnessed in the past three years.  He added that tablets and smartphones and “smart glass” have fast become the focus of the entertainment experience.

Even so, Jana Bennett, President, Worldwide Networks & Global iPlayer at BBC Worldwide, noted that audiences still want a mass experience. Yet part of the future growth for content will come from mining niches and catering to passions.

Jayne Leung, Director, North Asia at Facebook later highlighted the multiplier effect of new audience engagements.  Fans recommending TV content to friends present an immense opportunity to content owners and marketers to establish life-long connectivity, she said. Michelle Guthrie, AP Director, Strategic Business Development at Google, reinforced that collaboration is key to the future innovation of the industry and ecosystems should underpin this collaboration.

Meanwhile, in his welcoming remarks, Mr John C Tsang, Financial Secretary of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong SAR), highlighted the benefits to the multichannel television industry of Hong Kong‚s level playing field for business and the free flow of information, including a free and unfettered media.

“We pursue market-driven, technology-neutral broadcasting policies, and regulate the broadcasting industry with the lightest touch,” he said. “I am pleased that CASBAA rates Hong Kong as one of the most favourable and competitive environments for the pay TV industry. This tells us that we must be doing something right.”
Rapid media convergence has made the traditional boundaries between telecommunications and broadcasting increasingly blurred, Mr Tsang said. To sustain a regulatory environment that will help Hong Kong capture new opportunities and meet new challenges, a unified regulatory authority called The Communications Authority will be established in April next year.

“What we have seen at the Convention 2011 is that our industry’s first 20 years is a journey that has only just begun,” added Simon Twiston Davies, CEO, CASBAA. “Even with more than 420 million non-terrestrial TV connections across the Asia Pacific, there is phenomenal opportunity for even more expansion and growth in the region.”

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