The worldwide lockdown measures that have been enforced due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to large-scale increases in TV watching and online media usage, especially online streaming.
Some experts have assumed that people have tended to escape their anxiety brought on by the pandemic, by viewing online platforms.
Other experts, however, say that the increase in online streaming is not surprising, as many people were forced to stay at home. With streaming of many planned sporting and musical events impossible as they were cancelled, viewers have instead tended to use online platforms more frequently.
Overcoming the shutdown measures, many Egyptian and Arab stars, offered impromptu home concerts, despite the largest increase coming from other film and music streaming.
Online streaming platforms are expending a lot of effort to keep users engaged, including producing original content. Also the films that are typically slated for the cinema have instead been released straight to on-demand services. As a result, the amount of time spent on online platforms has grown dramatically in the past few months.
Online video streamers, particularly users of sites like Viu, Hong Kong-based video streaming provider, are spending dramatically more time looking at screens each day.
Those platforms continue to invest in creating their own shows and films to cater to their growing user bases, and it is increasingly important to understand the changing mind set of these viewers as the crisis continues.
In a previous statement, the Hong Kong-based Viu explained how an early focus on local-language content has enabled the company to grow while other pan-regional streamers have fallen by the wayside. Initially focusing on popular Korean dramas, the service has since expanded into originals in several languages.
To find out how the film industry market had changed due to the pandemic, Daily News Egypt sat down with Abe Aboul-Naga, General Manager of VIU Middle East.
Aboul-Naga said that the over-the-top (OTT) media service, which is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet, had witnessed a period of growth during the lockdown period.
He also explained that online consumption habits changed months into the pandemic, indicating that the viewers have been engaging more readily with diverse content, whilst exploring new films and series across various OTT platforms.
Did Viu witness any increase in consumption during COVID-19? What is the percentage of that increase?
The OTT industry, as a whole, witnessed a period of growth during the lockdown period. From that growth we were able to learn and gain a deeper understanding of user preferences and the content viewers really want. Currently, we aim to continue to provide a diverse entertainment library with international content that appeals to our viewers across the region.
In your opinion, what were the pros and cons of COVID-19 for the OTT industry?
More people spending time indoors and at home has had its advantages. As such, viewers have been engaging more readily with diverse content, exploring new films and series across various OTT platforms. Additionally, with more people spending more time on OTT platforms, we have seen a positive increase in our subscriptions. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also resulted in the inevitable delay of some of our Viu Original series productions.
Which content was the most popular on the platform in the Egyptian market last year?
Egyptians are like everyone else, they enjoy good content regardless of the genre or origin. But we have seen our users being drawn the most to the genres of comedy and drama.
Our Egyptian audience are also avid consumers of our Viu Originals, which are mostly thriller titles, such as Zodiac and Ansaf Majaneen. Additionally, Korean drama is quickly becoming one of the most popular genres amongst our Egyptian audience.
Did the COVID-19 pandemic open new opportunities for online streaming platforms?
The pandemic did benefit media and streaming providers, predominantly because of the increase in video consumption and the subsequent growth in new subscribers.
We currently see online platforms producing original content like Ansaf Majaneen, will this be a replacement for the TV series and cinemas?
Through our original productions, we work hard to understand and predict the wants and needs of our audiences. We write stories, utilise languages, and tailor our content and features to suit Gen Z viewers across the region.
Our focus is therefore on customising the viewing experience for our audience. While we cannot predict if original OTT-produced content will end up replacing classic TV series and cinemas, we believe that originals are a great way to work with local production and talent, to create unique and engaging narratives stories that appeal to Gen-Z’ers.
Will digital platforms replace actual cinemas?
While we cannot say for sure if digital platforms will replace cinemas, we have seen an uptake in digital streaming among younger audiences and Gen-Z in particular.
Additionally, due to travel restrictions and the closure of theatres and cinemas, more people have turned to OTT streaming services, like Viu and other channels, to access their audio and visual content.
What are your expectations for the future? Do you think that COVID-19 will change people’s consumption habits for entertainment content forever?
The pandemic has surely altered people’s habits in many aspects of their lives including the way they consume their entertainment and the platforms they use to access it. We expect users to continue using at home entertainment options, such as OTT platforms for the foreseeable future.