April 5, 2018
By Haresh Deol
LET’S be honest – do you pay a broadcaster for entertainment?
I do. I subscribe to both Astro and unifi TV. Astro is mainly for sports while unifi TV is more for the Internet rather than the TV bit.
But I do know many who don’t subscribe to any broadcasters – except their one-off investment in an android television box. Others watch YouTube or stream movies or matches online. They rely on their gadgets instead of a television.
So when a salesman starts promoting a tiny black box, promising over 1,000 channels – featuring almost everything and anything under the sun – for a one-off payment of RM250, obviously I am intrigued to find out more.
The salesman, in his 30s, said: “What also got, what also can get. No need worry deposit lah, monthly bill. Just buy, plug and watch. But must have Internet connection.
“It is very good. See even my old television can become smart television after I have this box.”
Tempting? Indeed. No monthly bills to worry and everyone in the household will be happy. I’ll get the sports, my other half will have plenty of sitcoms to choose from, mom will get to watch the latest Hindi and Pakistani TV series while junior will be kept entertained with the cartoons.
Then there are websites where people usually stream to watch movies or sporting events. I sometimes stream – to watch matches involving the national football team which are not aired by our local broadcasters.
A quick check online shows that the MXQ 4K Ultra HD Android TV Box gives you access to 10,000 channels from almost every country. And it is priced at RM189!
But are these Android television boxes legal in Malaysia?
How is this different compared to streaming, let’s say a football match, on your laptop or phone?
Is this another form of piracy?
And are we turning into a generation who are willing to compromise on visual and audio quality by streaming movies or live matches from third party websites?
“Why are you thinking so much into this? Just get (the Android TV box). Don’t waste your time with what is out there. All repeats and they don’t even offer the best latest content,” a friend once said.
Federal police, had last year said, those caught subscribing to “illegal packages” could face action under Section 41 of the Copyright Act 1987.
It is evident enforcement is severely lacking. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see people selling these Android television boxes or even pirated DVDs (yes, they are still sold at night markets).
In fact, the subject of piracy was once again brought up during the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) OTT conference on March 21 in Singapore.
Goh Seow Eng, managing director (home) for Singtel, spoke about the need for more united action to combat piracy.
He said content owners who did not join the efforts would face the consequences in contract renewal conversations with the platforms.
The same conference also saw Media Partners Asia vice-president Aravind Venugopal saying “data consumption, subscriber retention and pricing power have emerged as key drivers in the OTT space.”
In Singapore, the use of such streaming devices to access legitimate content is not copyright infringement.
But it is considered an offence if the device unscrambles signals used by pay television operators in the republic.
Ignoring this matter is not bliss. Many people are becoming overly reliant on such options that imposing any form of regulation would only result in a massive uproar. Owning television Android boxes and streaming shows are a way of life for many.
Consumers are happy, for now.
But broadcasters, including Astro and unifi TV, are feeling more than just a pinch. They pay top dollar to secure broadcasting rights only to see it being viewed free through another device.
The government, meanwhile, is unable to monitor, monetise (through fees and taxes) and regulate those who provide such services.
If this carries on, the whole system will eventually crumble. Without broadcasters, viewers will be staring at blank screens.
It must be noted any form of clampdown will be seen as an attempt to stifle Internet freedom. However, such freedom must not come at the expense of promoting illegal activities.
I’d rather pay then search for a website to stream football matches. It lags and the poor audio and visual quality kills the experience of watching a match. But I’m a dying breed.
Many out there still prefer a cheaper alternative, which includes watching their favourite shows on YouTube.
Group M Digital media manager Tejas Kirodiwal, had on his LinkedIn page, posted: “In Malaysia, YouTube has more reach than traditional television channels like TV3, ntv7, TV9, Astro Awani and others.”
His posting was accompanied with a graph that showed YouTube recording a reach of 17 million unique users monthly.
LONGTV, by Longvision Media Sdn Bhd, will be the first legal Internet television services provider and digital television platform.
Longvision COO C.H. Low was quoted by The Malaysian Reserve on March 30 as saying: “Singapore — being the biggest illegal content hosting company right now, has about 21 major organisations, including Home Box Office and Sony Corp — lodged complaints with the Singaporean government to shut down the streaming channels. If it was hosted in Malaysia, it too would be shut down.
“Content providers that do not favour illegal activities should be rewarded,” he said.
Loyal consumers who go through proper channels should also be rewarded with quality content. Viewers are now spoilt for choice and broadcasters must continuously work hard to win the hearts of their customers. They can never be complacent as they will be quickly replaced.
Broadcasters must provide quality content at affordable prices and perhaps rethink how they sell their programmes – individually instead of packages.
Don’t force people to pay for something that does not interest them.
This will perhaps lure customers to opt for a stable and reliable viewing experience where their visual and audio qualities will not be compromised.