Foreign companies deterred by APAC content rights challenges

Companies such as Apple and Amazon reluctant to enter Asia-Pacific because of difficult, time-consuming process to get rights for individual markets here, note analysts.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

Negotiating for content rights has been the main challenge for companies such as Amazon.com and Apple wanting to bring their content stores to Asia-Pacific. This gap has allowed local competitors to steal a march on their global rivals though, analysts pointed out.

According to Jayesh Easwramony, Asia-Pacific vice president of ICT Practice at Frost & Sullivan, most large studios sell content rights on a country-specific basis, and this is a big constraint for companies looking to bring these content to global markets.

Elaborating, Tim Renowden, media and broadcast analyst at Ovum, noted that because Asia-Pacific is a region of very different markets for digital content, it can be difficult and time-consuming for companies such as Apple and Amazon to negotiate for the rights to distribute them.

Apple and Amazon have both established their presence in several Asia-Pacific markets, but not all allow the purchase of digital content available to consumers in the United States, for example.

He added in his e-mail that this process would have to be repeated in every country, which would make some providers or resellers to focus on their core markets and establish a solid profit base before contemplating expanding into this region.

Strong competition, high costs hinder entry too
What's more, even though broadband availability is very high in some Asia-Pacific markets, there is still a need to invest in content delivery infrastructure, Renowden pointed out. As such, many companies may be hesitant to invest in markets here unless they have a really strong business proposition, he added.

Additionally, content sourcing for consumers in the region is also complex due to the wide variety of markets and needs, Easwramony said. In the evolved broadband markets such as Japan and South Korea, there are already strong, homegrown online content alternatives to the services provided by global providers. On the other hand, emerging markets such as India and China might welcome more content variety but people might have lower purchasing power, he explained.

By comparison, the global distribution platform for digital content set up by Amazon and Apple are centered around the U.S. and other English-speaking countries as these markets offer great scale in terms of content diversity and consumers' willingness to pay, he noted.

In the absence of global rivals, a combination local Web-based content service, on-demand services from cable and telecom players, physical retail outlets and device makers providing content offerings, are all competing for a share of the Asian customers' content spend, Renowden stated.

Should Apple and Amazon enter the Asia market, though, they could see an estimated revenue upside of between 6 percent and 8 percent, Easwramony contended.

"In some countries like Singapore, savvy consumers already download from iTunes and order from Amazon. In other countries like South Korea, there is already a vibrant online music market dominated by local players that is close to US$640 million in 2011," he pointed out.

Consumer demand still high
Singapore-based consumers ZDNet Asia spoke to want Apple, Amazon and other foreign content providers and resellers to set up shop, too.

Kindle user Stephanie Loi was one who called on both Apple and Amazon to make their services available in Singapore as it was a hassle to buy content from them currently. "If we had iTunes, there will be a lot less piracy going around," she said.

Bridget Kow, a public relations executive, agreed that she was willing to pay for music and shows if these companies had a presence in Asia-Pacific.

Peace Chiu, a journalist, also noted that an "Asia-Pacific version" of iTunes can cater to the taste of consumers of the region. "It would be easier for the locals to promote their music, videos and products...and also makes it easier to contact the helpdesk," she said.

Apple and Amazon did not respond to ZDNet Asia's request for comment

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