Online streaming is a hot thing now. Netflix, aided by its ingenious strategy, eyes global domination and challenges Hollywood to become the first true global TV network powered by its country-specific programming.
On the other hand, tech giants are gearing up for TV dollars with Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft investing heavily in video. Social media platforms such as twitter and Facebook are heavily pushing video and live streaming. Looking at the recent development, many has already predicted that future of TV is different.
In Bangladesh, we have a couple of players in the video streaming space. All three telecom operators have streaming service in some form. Grameenphone has Bioscope, arguably the best streaming service by any telecom operator, Banglalink has Banglaflix, and Robi has Robi TV.
There are a few independently run services such as Bongobd, which also maintains Bioscope for GP, and 3rdbell, which came out of stealth mode recently, and Popcorn Live which is also operating at a limited scale. Let’s have a look at the past and current players in the space;
Bongobd: Founded by Ahad Bhai and Navidul Haq, BongoBD is one of the early players in video streaming space. The platform claims to have over 30,000 movies, dramas, TV shows, music videos and songs. It also produces low-budget original content, mostly fun entertainment content and also manages Bioscope platform for Grameenphone with almost similar content.
While it plans to launch a paid subscription service, it now monetizes through a pre-roll ad, similar to Youtube, run before each video. According to Similar web data, the site now attracts 211K users a month.
Popocornlive: Founded by Famed Filmmaker and Producer Redoan Rony, Popocorn Live hosts a limited number of programs, largely content made by Rony and the group. The growth is predictably slow and the site attracts a couple thousand users a month.
3rdbell: 3rd Bell launched in early 2014 and raised an undisclosed amount of funding later in 2015 but the startup abruptly went stealth mode in early 2016. However, it has recently come out of stealth mode and now plans to do things differently. Initially, it tried with original content production and all but fall short to attract a critical mass to support its ad-driven business model. Now that is back again, we can expect renewed initiatives from the company.
Bioscope: Grameenphone quietly beta launched video streaming service Bioscope later in 2016. The service allows users to enjoy Live TV and on-demand Video contents for free for now when the platform is in beta phase, but it plans to 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, the parent company of streaming startup Bongobd. The platform has grown significantly over the past months and now attracts around 323.8K viewers per month with over 4 minutes average viewing time, according to Similar web data.
Banglaflix and Robi TV
Though not at the scale of Bisocope, Banglalink has Banglaflix, a Netflix type mobile-only video streaming service and Robi has been running Robi.Tv for a while now. Unlike Grameenphone, both services are exclusively for users of the two operators.
There is no doubt that video is the new hot thing. As we noted a few months ago: “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.”
That said, video streaming has a long way to go in Bangladesh. Our internet infrastructure is not ready for streaming yet. Broadband penetration is significantly low outside Dhaka and 3G is costly and is of low quality to stream videos. Moreover, piracy is widespread and it is hard to predict when this culture will cease.
On the other hand, youtube remains a key competitor in the space that hurt the exclusivity of the content which means it will be hard to convince people to pay for streaming with licensed content only.
Although our digital ad industry is growing but it will be hard to attract TV ad dollar with 300k traffic, which is the highest traffic for any streaming site right now. Exclusive and high-quality original content may help but that is too expensive and risky a business for any platform at this stage in Bangladesh and nobody is trying it yet.
That said, streaming has a future in Bangladesh given that mobile and internet penetration have been growing rapidly over the past years but it will take a significant investment in infrastructure and original quality content to make it work, something that Netflix has done in Brazil here.
Correction: this story has been updated to reflect that 3rdbell Entertainment Limited has come out of Stealth mode and now operational.