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Digital video: Global perspective and Bangladesh

Navidul Huq | December 09, 2019 00:00:00

More than 50 per cent of the world's internet traffic is people watching videos online. Over the last few years there has been an exponential growth in video streaming worldwide which has disrupted multiple industries, including movie industry, conventional media companies, newspapers, and television news media along with sports and the broader entertainment industry.

Television, once the primary and only screen for viewers, has now become a secondary screen. Viewers eyeballs and attention are now being divided across multiple screens - with the one in their pocket drawing the most attention. With YouTube leading the way in free and consumer produced videos and Netflix in paid-subscription service; many global and regional players have also emerged over the last 3-4 years.

While Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Disney fight it out in the more mature content markets, non-English speaking markets, such as India and Southeast Asia, are also heating up where western players fight with local ones. One of the markets seeing a massive adoption of online streaming video is India. Major services have evolved, such as Hotstar, which has over 300 million subscribers, compared to 150 million that Netflix has globally. Zee5 and Voot are other popular services in India. Many of these services are combining Live TV content along with video on demand offerings such as thousands of movies and TV show episodes within one app.

These services coupled with smart TVs are becoming an alternative to traditional cable TV subscriptions. Cord cutting is slowly becoming a phenomenon around the world where viewers depend on internet streamed videos instead of conventional cable TV connections.

Southeast Asian countries have large regional players that are offering services pan continent and offer content in both English and other regional languages. Every region and country is seeing their video streaming players adopting different strategies to attract viewers' attention. With so much variety to choose from, viewers are subscribing to multiple services. Streaming companies in Asia are adopting a freemium model, where a portion of the content is free for viewers to enjoy.

For many online consumers, their experience on the internet starts with watching videos which is a very powerful shift in how people consume content. Video is where the growth will be in the future as more and more videos are made for consumers to enjoy both by paying and free of charge. What most of these markets have is strong regulation where the government has set forward a set of rules and laws that identifies each of the stakeholders in the industry and defines their roles. Though taxation is often the main motivator for the respective governments, they also have consumer rights in mind.

Like the rest of the world, the digital video revolution is sweeping through Bangladesh. More than 45 per cent of the internet bandwidth in the country is being consumed for video streaming, with YouTube being the biggest platform for video content consumption. Unlike many parts of the world, in Bangladesh, mobile telecom companies drive the video industry beyond Youtube. As the markets mature, users will move away from YouTube in search of premium content that they are willing to pay for both in entertainment and also in sports.

Bangladesh also has a few homegrown players already working with content specifically for the Bangla-speaking viewers. Bangladeshi video platforms such as Bongo are already seeing significant growth along with Rabbithole, Bioscope and Robi TV+.

With one of the largest populations in the world and as one of the fastest growing internet markets, Bangladesh is already in the attention of global video streaming players. Zee5 is already offering services here along with HoiChoi, Netflix and iFlix.

While local bred players try to grab onto the market there is a lack of fair play as many of the international platforms cannot be brought under taxation or legal oversight because of lack of regulation in this area. The government is yet to take measures to update regulation and bring all the players in this industry onto a level-playing field in order to ensure that good-quality, non-controversial contents are being shown and that consumer rights are being protected. There are also opportunities for the government to earn revenue through taxation. If the correct regulations are not put into place right away, Bangladeshi companies will not be able to sustain in the long run and the interests of the Bangladeshi viewers will never be a top priority to international platforms.

With over 70 million internet users in Bangladesh, we have the chance to be one of the biggest video consumption markets in the world. The right regulations have to be put in place by the government so that the fair playing ground can be established for all players and the consumers can enjoy a cost-effective, yet world-class video streaming experience.


Navidul Huq is a co-founder of Bongo, a pioneer and one of the largest online video streaming companies in Bangladesh.


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