Grameenphone, the largest telecom operator in the country, has quietly beta launched video streaming service Bioscope.
The service, currently available in beta, allows the users to enjoy Live TV and on-demand Video contents. Users can watch any content for free for now when the platform is in beta phase, but it will start charging users later and may launch a subscription model.
According to sources, Bioscope already has around forty TV channels that can be viewed on its website and over 15000 on demand video contents including movies, dramas and sports clips.
For content licensing and copyrights, it has a content partnership with the Stellar Digital Ltd that provides the content copyright.
GP launched Bioscope in a time when other telecom operators are also working on streaming services. Banglalink launched Banglaflix, a Netflix type mobile-only video streaming service a couple months ago and Robi has been running Robi.Tv for a while now.
There are standalone streaming services as well like Popcornlive, 3rdbell, and Bongo. However, telecom operators interest in the sector will make the game even harder for the existing players.
Video is the new hot thing. Platforms across the board are betting heavily on video. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are heavily pushing video content. Digital media startups like BuzzFeed, Vox, Refinery29, Mic are investing heavily in video. There is a growing competition among the digital natives to secure some of the TV ad dollars.
On the other hand, video streaming services are also on the rise. While Netflix dominates the space, players like Amazon, Apple, Google all are investing heavily in video streaming and many of these companies are also getting into original content production.
In Bangladesh, 3rdbell launched in 2014 and invested in both producing original content and licensing but it failed to draw enough attention. The startup raised an undisclosed sum in 2015 but failed to maintain a consistent growth. The story is almost similar for BongoBD and Popcornlive.
While stories of existing streaming services give a warning sign for new entrants, but it is true that there is a growing demand for Bangla content online and with the growth of Smartphones and internet penetration, digital content consumption will grow significantly in the coming years, which means video streaming has a future. But it hard to predict who will win the game.
There is a silent war going on among the major telecom operators for the control of digital services space in Bangladesh. In fact, these companies are working actively to morph themselves into digital services providers. Banglalink and Grameenphone have publicly announced their desire or ambition to transform into digital partners for their users instead of mere telecom operators.
Business wise, this ambition to become digital service providers makes sense for these companies. However, there are several caveats to this ambition. Net neutrality and whether Telecom operators can become content producers and distributors remains a key question.
Industry insiders have already voiced concerns over Telcos increasing involvement in the digital content generation and distribution and thus need for a policy direction for that matter. Similarly, while it is comparatively easy to get into these digital service businesses but it requires a different skill set and organizational capacity to succeed in these initiatives.