Competition and opportunity are two sides of the same coin in Thailand, by far Southeast Asia’s most fluid TV market where new digital platforms for terrestrial, satellite and broadband distribution are dramatically reshaping industry dynamics.
The Kingdom currently ranks as Southeast Asia’s largest TV market, just ahead of Indonesia, largely due to the size of pay-TV, a business at an earlier stage of development in Indonesia.
Industry dynamics are shifting however, as Thailand’s formerly lackluster free-to-air sector experiences a new lease of life, ramping up demand for local programming while undermining Arpus and growth curves for pay-TV.
This new energy is coming on the back of an unusually robust free satellite sector, which has emerged as the preferred way for Thais to watch TV, together with a second major influx of commercial real estate in the form of 24 digital terrestrial TV (DTT) channels that launched last year.
Fragmentation and competition have intensified as a result. In Thailand, 65% of TV industry revenues are shared by six players, giving new entrants a much better chance to succeed than elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
By contrast, three players control 65% of TV revenue in both Indonesia and the Philippines, pointed out Stephen Laslocky, VP of Media Partners Asia, presenting the figures in Bangkok at last week’s Thailand TV and Video Industry Forum.
Meanwhile, investment in both fixed and mobile broadband is opening up yet another competitive front, as penetration extends beyond Bangkok and the most affluent consumers.
OTT competition is especially intense in Thailand, with 10 SVOD plays jostling for a toehold in a still nascent marketplace.
At the same time, in common with other markets, bundled services will be the most important growth driver for pay-TV, currently buckling under free TV’s gravitational pull.
Thailand’s pay-TV sector can also shore up future prosperity with more investment in premium local dramas, movies and sports, Laslocky argued, while exploring under-served niches for international content.
Competitive intensity will subside, especially in OTT and DTT, while freesat continues to work through its own structural obstacles, revealing the beginnings of a new status quo.
In the meantime, expect plenty more deal-making and partnerships, as both local and international players map out this unexplored landscape for Thai TV.