Platform Communications Views

Rockin’ Hong Kong

I’m in London. It’s raining. I’m cold. A stark contrast to the 29°c sunshine of Hong Kong last week where I attended the annual CASBAA Convention. For the past 20 years the event has been a focal point for the Asian Pay-TV industry.

Starting as a pure play cable and satellite forum, CASBAA has expanded its horizons in recent years and the traditional TV speakers on this year’s programme were joined by representatives from ‘the enemy’ – Hulu, YouTube/Google, Facebook and the like. There is no doubt that the face of TV is changing and no more so than in Asia, ‘the most exciting and high growth TV market’. The threat of over-the-top TV is being taken seriously by traditional players. Liang Xiao Tao, President of China’s CITVC stated: “Hulu and YouTube are killing TV” going on to talk about how that threat is driving CCTV/CITVC to innovate more and use multi-platform convergence for service differentiation – a healthy competitive landscape that can only benefit the consumer.

There was also mass agreement that linear TV is here to stay, with live TV viewing figures rising and consumers using social media to share their live TV experiences – taking linear deeper than ever before. BBC Worldwide President, Jana Bennett talked about the need for TV producers to “create TV moments” and announced plans for near simultaneous global launch dates for top BBC shows such as Top Gear and BBC Earth as a way to create global live TV momentum and avoid piracy.

As a communications person I am always thinking about how we can use fresh language to describe the TV business. I really liked the BBC’s concept of ‘curating’ the iplayer and mining niches in production archives to create strong TV brands. On the other hand, Microsoft’s alternative term for tablets, ‘smart glass’ as used by the firm’s Blair Westlake made the dim sum churn in my tummy. As my friend and TV Genius CEO Tom Weiss @tom_weiss tweeted – “Microsoft prefers the term ‘smart glass’ to ‘tablet’. Presumably because they have zero market share in tablets.”

All fairness to Microsoft they did also show a fantastic video of the Xbox for TV – with a voice controlled interface that makes talk of a Siri controlled Apple TV look almost like old news.

UK based journalist (and top shopper) Kate Bulkley hosted a great panel – The 365 Experience – which featured speakers from Disney, BBC World News, Starhub, TV5Monde and GroupM – and explored what service providers and content owners need to do to truly engage and entertain today’s digital savvy consumer.

Wednesday morning was kicked off with an interview with Jeff Shell, president of NBCUniversal International who updated us on progress between the Comcast and NBCU merger, its approach to building out its Asian business and quaintly described Downton Abbey as a British period soap opera. Judging by the final episode of the series which I watched on Sky+ last night, he was spot on.

Overall I’d say the Asian TV market is looking very healthy. Some of the operator thinking is a little behind the trailblazing of some services in Europe and US, but Asia has often used that lag to its ultimate advantage, leapfrogging its Western counterparts just at the moment when consumer demand is right – take HD, high speed and mobile Broadband, Smartphones. With forecasts for rapid digital TV growth in the coming years, one can also see huge potential for ‘new’ TV experiences such as tablets/companion devices, iPlayer style services, over-the-top delivery and sophisticated content discovery. There has never been a better time to be doing business in Asia and I’m excited and honoured to be involved in the region and the development of its TV landscape.

Gay Bell