There will be nearly 100 million more pay television subscriptions in the Asia Pacific region by 2021. The top three operators, all of which are in China, will account for over a third of these. Emerging markets such as India are reporting record subscriber growth but there is a long tail of operators still offering relatively basic services. Excluding China, the Asia Pacific region represents the largest growth market in pay television.

Digital TV Research forecasts that paid subscriber numbers for the top 65 operators in the Asia Pacific region will increase from 438 million in 2015 to 536 million by 2021, with 12 operators forecast to have more than 10 million subscribers. The top 10 operators will continue to account for two-thirds of subscribers.

China and India dominate the rankings by subscribers, headed by China Radio and TV, which had 239 million subscribers in 2015 and is forecast to have over 250 million in 2021. China Telecom is forecast to increase its subscribers from 22.95 million to 39.22 million, while BesTV will increase from 13.77 million to 23.53 million.

Pay television revenues for the top 65 operators in the Asia Pacific region will climb by $6 billion to $31 billion in 2021.

The report forecasts that 10 operators will experience subscriber losses over the period, and 16 operators will lose revenues, with Foxtel expected to decline the most, down by $147 million.

The Asia Pacific region accounts for half of global television households but less than a fifth of pay television revenues.

A report by MTM for NAGRA notes that pay television development is unevenly distributed across the region. Its analysis covers 66 operators in 12 major markets, excluding China, accounting for about 240 million pay-television households.

Advanced markets cover South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, which have generally wealthier and more technologically advanced economies. Almost all operators in these countries offer IP-connected set-top boxes with eight out of ten offering some form of TV Everywhere service.

Emerging markets cover India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, where satellite is the primary pay-television platform, fixed broadband penetration is relatively low and in some cases mobile networks are the main way of connecting to the internet.

A quarter of pay television service providers in the Asia Pacific region have launched a standalone online television or video service. This is mainly a defensive measure against the other online television and video aggregators but also provides a commercial opportunity to differentiate their offerings and attract new customers beyond their existing footprints.

“Innovation within the region will be supported by existing and future investment in broadband infrastructure to deliver pay-TV,” said Simon Trudelle of NAGRA. “For countries where broadband will still take years to be widely deployed it is imperative that regardless of the economy in which they operate, service providers invest in innovative hybrid solutions to deliver more valuable content, to attract new subscribers and continue delivering revenue growth and profitability.”

One operator quoted in the report said that TV Everywhere is a “must do” for all operators and represents the ultimate way to personalise the experience but admitted “we’re a long way away from cracking it”.

The report concludes that many service providers in the emerging Asia Pacific markets are lagging behind their counterparts in more advanced markets in terms of product and service portfolio. Many of the service providers in the region are relatively small scale and have limited footprints.

That said, the top 10 services in Asia Pacific in the informitv Multiscreen Index, excluding China, have over 88 million subscribers between them, compared to 119 million for the top 10 in the Americas and 67 million for the top 10 in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

Multiscreen Index 2016 Q1 summary. Source: informitv Multiscreen Index

Furthermore, the Asia Pacific is the only region that is showing substantial subscriber growth, gaining 5.35 million in the second quarter of 2016.

Asia Pacific Pay TV Operator Forecasts is published by Digital TV Research. The Pay-TV Innovation Landscape in Asia Pacific is available from NAGRA. The Multiscreen Index is published by informitv.