OTT Video Streaming Wars in Korea and rest of Asia

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

We're halfway through 2021 and it's the best time to take a quick look back at key developments of online video platforms as streaming wars aggressively continues. I'll start with the large players such as Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max in Asia, though they might not have a direct impact in the Korean market. After which, I'll zoom into key video platforms in Korea.

Disney Plus might not be available in Korea yet, but the Korean media already has their eyes peeled to its anticipated launch within 2021. The Korean Times reported in "All Eyes on Disney Plus Launch", that Disney is already in talks with Korean telco network operators, KT and LG Uplus for potential partnerships and similar to what Netflix has already done, Disney is also likely to provide content through telcos' internet protocol (IPTV) services.

Since its birth in November 2019, Disney Plus has rapidly expanded in the Asia market from April 2020, together with Hotstar in India as the first Asian market. Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia followed with Hotstar, NTT Docomo, Telkomsel, Starhub and Astro as preferred partners. Disney is expected to continue its aggressive expansion to Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Philippines and Taiwan for the rest of 2021.

Disney Plus' Asia Launch Schedule

What Disney Plus' launch in Asia means for Netflix, a dominant player in Asia for OTT video services? Certainly a massive competition for audiences' screen time. Netflix's success in shaping the Originals' business will now be put to the test with a studio veteran, best known for its content production, distribution, marketing and merchandising strategies. Disney not only has their evergreen animation and live action stories, everything within the Pixar animation, Marvel and Star Wars franchise falls under their purview. Disney Plus' launch is seemingly a well thought strategy, waiting for timely execution. Disney Plus offers not just films, but more than 7,500 TV series will be included in the mix. Brand new series, Loki, was also released on the platform earlier this month.

According to the article, "Disney Plus Leads Premium Streaming Surge in South East Asia" on Variety, Disney Plus is noted to make the greatest progress among premium streaming platforms in the region as reported by AMPD Research, an affiliate of Media Partners Asia. Netflix remains as the leader at 40% market share, followed by Viu (PCCW) at 15%, WeTV (Tencent) at 13%, iQiyi (Baidu) at 10% and Vidio (Emtek) at 9%.

AMPD Research on Southeast Asia's OTT Market

Another key player not to overlook is WarnerMedia's HBO Max. The company recently made headlines with the joining of Amit Malhotra as Managing Director for HBO Max in Southeast Asia and India. He's been with Disney for 17 years and his last role was Regional Lead for Disney Plus in Southeast Asia. Amit is expected to lead launch and rollout efforts of HBO Max in eight territories where HBO Go is already available. HBO Go is now in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan.

WarnerMedia has a huge treasure trove when it comes to intellectual property, considering the brands it represents. From HBO Originals, Warner Bros., the DC Comics franchise, to CNN, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Animal Planet, TNT, Food Network and more, the range is diverse and extensive. There certainly is potential to join Netflix and Disney Plus in this nip and tuck competition.

While we wait, how are Korean OTT players doing in the market? Netflix last reported 3.8 million subscribers in April after launching sci-fi action film, "Space Sweepers" starring Song Joong Ki. A research report on App Trends released by Dighty in May 2021 examined app installations in the first half of 2021 in multiple sectors, including entertainment. According to the report, Netflix and Wavve (the resultant OTT video player post the joint venture of SK Telecom and top Korean TV broadcasters, SBS, MBC and KBS) take first and second place respectively, though there is a considerable gap between the two. Taking third spot is Naver Webtoon, followed by Korea Telecom's Seezn and Tik Tok.

Age and Gender Demographics Split for OTT Apps in Korea

Compared to H2 of 2020, there seems to be more than 10% increase in OTT video apps overall, but apps with notable growth include Watcha at 40% and Coupang Play at a whopping 95%. Specifically with Coupang Play, there is an increase of 44% in the thirties' age group, highlighting the influence of this demographic. For Coupang Play, 99% of users have also installed the e-commerce app, Coupang, compared to Netflix users, who have less of a tendency to install shopping apps.

Dighty's insights regarding the outlook of the OTT space in Korea for the rest of 2021 suggests:

  1. OTT apps installation will continue to increase for the rest of 2021. In addition, the market penetration of Disney Plus and popularity of original content will result in intense competition between players in the Korean market.

  2. Coupang Play is expected to continue its high growth rate since it is an added benefit of Coupang's WOW membership program.

Original report can be found here on slides 103-112