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CASBAA calls for level OTT playing field

CASBAA, the Association for digital multichannel TV, content, platforms, advertising and video delivery in Asia, has described Asian OTT regulation as an “unsustainable” situation, which sees governments maintain legacy regulatory policies that disadvantage their local operators, while television supply is moving online and undergoing a “comprehensive transformation”. CASBAA’s comments come in study – Same Same But Different? Video Policies for Asian Pay-TV and OTT – released at its third annual OTT Summit.

Same Same But Different? is the result of a collaboration between highly regarded experts in Asian capitals. It takes an in-depth look at the regulation of Pay-TV and OTT video in countries and regions across Asia and Australasia, drawing comparisons with current legislation in the UK and United States.

“Regulators have an incredibly difficult task ahead of them,” said CASBAA Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros. “Root-and-branch reform is needed.” Medeiros pointed out that “the pay-television industry environment today is radically different from what it was only five years ago, and the hard work of adapting policy instruments and practices has only gotten underway in a small number of markets.”

In the publication, CASBAA described licensed local pay-TV companies facing sharp competition from legal and illegal offshore media ventures, even while their hands are tied behind their backs, as a result of heavy burdens from taxes and government mandates on content, advertising, competition and social policy. CASBAA noted that a large portion of OTT content delivered to many Asian markets in fact comes from pirate syndicates which operate outside of all legal constraints.

“This in-depth study provides a detailed view of the state of pay-TV and OTT throughout the region, providing vital insights for anyone looking to enter the local marketplace, or indeed anyone who simply wishes to be more informed,” reported Christopher Slaughter, CEO of CASBAA.

The report provides specific descriptions of each government’s policies affecting OTT television on subjects as diverse as content censorship, advertising limits, copyright protection, and consumer protection. It observes that many governments are levying burdens on “onshore” OTT operations while leaving “offshore” services virtually unregulated. One result of this discrepancy is a big boost for offshore operations providing pirated content. It’s of note that these offshore outfits are unburdened by any ethical, legal, or social constraints, and they continue to grow in importance.

In launching the report, CASBAA warned that if the “tilted playing field” persists, media investments will move offshore. “Why would any media company locate a new OTT business in a heavily-regulated jurisdiction,” asked Medeiros, “if they can serve the market more cheaply and without compliance burdens from offshore?” CASBAA urged that governments review their pay-TV rules “and determine whether existing burdens are still required given the evolution…of the television market in recent years.” And it went on to say that governments should seek to “stem the growth and proliferation of illegitimate OTT services.”

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