Earlier this year Casbaa, also known as the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, adopted a new name and constitution. Casbaa is now known as AVIA.
Singapore, 6 August 2018 – At an Extraordinary General Meeting of members today, Casbaa overwhelmingly approved the adoption of a new constitution and new name. Casbaa will now be known as the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) and have a new mandate to represent the interests of companies across the broader video industry. The principal objective of AVIA is to make the video industry and ecosystem in Asia Pacific stronger and healthier.
Following the renaming, we spoke with Louis Boswell, the newly-named AVIA’s CEO, to understand the reasoning behind the change and get some of his thoughts pertaining to the dramatically changing and evolving video landscape.
We asked Louis if he could outline some of the industry changes he’d observed over the last few years that have driven the name and constitution change and if he could describe the shape of this new ecosystem that AVIA will represent?
Louis begins by highlighting some of the big changes that have happened over the last 5 or more years with respect to the way people consume content. He explains how it used to be a very simple world with free-to-air channels and if we, the viewer, wanted more channels we would subscribe to our local cable or satellite company and get a large selection of bundled channels for a fixed price. And that was it.
“With the advent of Netflix and iFlix, however, big streaming companies and others like Hooq have taken everyone by storm. Content is not delivered just by aggregators but by telcos and direct from streaming companies. This can all be watched on pretty much any device and this all represents an unprecedented change in terms of how we interact with and consume content.
“We grew up,” Louis adds, “with the pay TV model and the name Casbaa, with its strong association with cable and satellites, has now stopped being representative for the industry. We needed to stop and look at the industry. Pay TV hasn’t gone away but we wanted to incorporate all the new services notably OTT and streaming and felt that the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) was a better description.
“And what is it that we are doing for the industry?“ Louis adds that the key things the association sees as common under the broader umbrella are firstly, policy issues – issues of regulation with governments etc.
“The second and single biggest issue is piracy, and that has to be at the forefront. And thirdly, it’s a question of providing insights and intelligence to our members in what’s become a very fertile ground. This is identified and delivered through our committees, our reports and our conferences.”
Which, we ask, of the these three ‘pillars’ of the new organisation does he see as the most important? And which comes with the biggest challenges?
“If pushed, piracy is the biggest problem. If we could solve just one thing we’d choose to solve piracy. If people are cord-cutting because they can get content for free, this is a real problem. Ultimately it stifles creativity and innovation and stops people getting into the video game. It’s the biggest problem and the hardest one to combat. The pirates are innovative, and they don’t have to follow laws but we have to. Copyright laws in many countries have not keep up to date. And laws have traditionally protected physical products whereas streaming video exists just for a transitory moment. We have a lot of progress to make. And we have a lot of education to do with IP offices.”
We then ask Louis what technology changes or consumer behaviour shifts did he think have had the biggest impact in the industry over the last few years?
Louis tells us that the biggest change has been the liberation of content – from one device to another and viewers not being beholden to the TV in the home anymore.
“On public transport, during lunchtime in the office or stuck in a traffic jam, if you have a good data plan these consumption scenarios are all now a common reality. You can choose what and when, he added, rather than the old ‘appointment method’. Bingeing and gorging is the new thing along with not having to wait for the next episode. However, the TV is fighting back in a big way with internet connected smart TVs. And for some, for content they relay love, the TV is still the best device. We will see growth in the TV as it’s another device now not just a technology.”
Building on what Louis has said, we ask how AVIA approached trying to ‘understand’ the future and, in doing so, how does AVIA help its members understand the implications for their respective areas?
He starts by saying that he’d love to say that they’re an association of geniuses.
“But the reality is we bring people together to discuss what they are seeing. We’re a convening mechanism with conferences and in creating and running committees. We discuss what’s working and what’s not and, in doing so, we create a brains trust. And in widening the organisation we’re creating a bigger brains trust. We don’t want to be an echo chamber and we need full representation to understand all of the changes.
“At our next conference the theme is the state of the industry and the aim will be to take stock and to assess how our business models are changing. We will look at the changing role of advertising, for example, and how sports content can be different from the rest. We’re not necessarily after answers but rather about bringing people together who have views, opinions and a voice.”
We then ask how much of a lead does the organisation take from other regions with respect to consumer trends and legislation? Is it too simplistic, we ask, to suggest that trends in this region will simply follow North America or Europe?
“Our feeling is that our region is following Europe and North America less and less. In the world of Pay TV it was true that Asia adopted the North American model and was dominated by western broadcasters. But now we see a lot of Asian content with a lot locally produced and that used to be unique to the domain of terrestrial TV. Just look at iFlix and Hooq and what they’re doing and then combine that with the growing influence of China not just in terms of content but in terms of infrastructure. Payments are a great example of that. Those big western companies are doubling down with mergers but despite that the business is becoming far more organic and locally based. Just look at Go-Jeck and their getting into video. They’re a totally home-grown company.”
So the industry is in flux. How is this affecting consumers? With many very tech savvy consumers cutting cords, how are they supposed to keep track of platforms and the broader ecosystem? Things can be complicated especially with sports. How are they supposed to keep up?
“It’s a real concern,” Louis concedes. “It’s a state that we’re going through because – and to some extent it’s always been the case – sporting rights get bought and sold separately. Just think about Sky in the UK. A few years ago, everyone needed to buy satellite dishes as sport left the BBC and ITV. There are various stages and now sports rights flick around, but it used to be easier because people used to have one bundle and the chances were it stayed in the bundle.
“Now things are more complicated because the channels now move platforms as well as broadcasters. It is difficult, and it’s a challenge, but by and large it’s all still there although you do have to work harder to find it. Things will solidify and as we move to streaming services then we’ll ask how many services will we expect people to subscribe to and will may see consolidation in this area. What’s clear is that consumers do not want 25 video apps on their phone. The benefits of the cable bundle were strong and we see companies now looking to replicate that with streaming services but sports is more challenging because of the cost of sports and its exclusive nature.”
Since our interview with Louis, the sports channel Eurosport has now re-appeared on the Singapore-based Toggle online platform. Eurosport, along with other Discovery owned channels, disappeared from both of Singapore’s legacy cable platforms (Singtel and Starhub) in July this year.
In our view this is exactly the kind of reshuffling and readjustment we will have all have to bear with. A period when content doesn’t simply move from one provider to another but leaves one platform for another. Instead of Eurosport being part of a sports package on a cable box that is fed by a wire from a socket on the wall, it’s now still available (with a small effort) on an on-board Samsung app on my TV as part of a general entertainment package and from another media conglomerate.
Editor: Carl Griffith