A look at the new Astro GO and its business impact

  • The new app Astro GO will soon allow concurrent streaming on four devices, raising concern of lower multiroom customers
  • Plans to launch new services to non-Astro pay-TV customers in May

A look at the new Astro GO and its business impact

From left: Astro's VP of digital products Ridhuan Sidek and chief commercial officer Liew Swee Lin

ASTRO Malaysia Holdings Bhd, the country's largest pay-TV operator, relaunched its app Astro GO as it aims to keep its customers longer -- even though the move may affect its revenue. 

The Astro GO app, previously known as Astro on the Go (AOTG), essentially allows customers to watch Astro contents such as live sports, TV series, dramas and others -- whenever, wherever. 

In fact, the company said that Astro GO will soon allow concurrent streaming on up to four devices.  

This could also mean that one household may not need to have multiple decoders anymore, as members of the household can simultaneously watch various Astro contents on their mobile devices (tablets, smartphones and laptops). With a HDMI cable connecting the device to the TV, the viewing experience may not differ much.

As at January 31, 2017, the company has more than 3.4 million pay-TV subscribers, with an average revenue per user of about RM100.40. From the amount, 405,000 households signed up to multiple decoders. A year ago 411,000 households signed up to multiple decoders.

Although the number of households signing up to multiple decoders have declined over the past year, the decline is not likely driven by its AOTG app. 

"I think it is partly due to customers impacting by the effects of higher costs of living, so they are just making adjustments to their expenses," said an analyst from a local brokerage. 

A check on the AOTG app's impact when it was launched, also showed that the app has no impact to consumers' behaviour.

The app, which was launched in 2012, also allows household to watch various channels simultaneously. For example, one could be watching a Korean drama in the kitchen (via a tablet) while another could be watching a live sports game in the living room (via the decoder). 

Since the launch, the number of household owning multiple decoders have actually increased by more than double from 175,000 in January, 2013 to over 400,000 today.

"With the new app allowing up to four simultaneous streaming in the near future, it may encourage some consumers to reduce the number of decoders they have at home," said the analyst.

"For the near-term, I expect the impact to be manageable."

Assuming a staggering 10% of its multiroom customers (the term the company describes households with multiple decoders) decided to have only one decoder per household -- it would translate to a decline of 40,000 multiroom customers, or up to RM25 million annually. (It costs up to RM53 for one to subscriber to a second decoder. The RM25 million assumption is based on each multiroom household has two decoders, and are cancelling the subscription of one decoder.)


Decision is with the customers

When asked if the company is concerned about having less multiroom subscribers as a result of the new Astro GO app, Astro's chief commercial officer Liew Swee Lin showed no signs of worry.

"Today, we are living in the world where content is democratised. It is our job to make our contents accessible. 

"At the end of the day, the choice of whether or not to have less decoders maintains with our customers," said Liew during a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur on March 30, 2017.

Analysts added that the move to launch Astro GO is also part of the company's longer-term strategy to stay relevant with its younger group of target markets.

"Today, I believe that consumers - especially those in the urban areas - are not spending as much time in front of the TV. To have an app that is able to address consumers' evolving needs and demands will be essential to the company's longer-term success," said the analyst.

So, besides having the capability to perform up to four simultaneous streaming -- what improvements do the new Astro GO have? 

For a start, the app has become more responsive and intuitive. It comes with a redesigned, simplified Home-Tab Bar. It also has a "smarter user interface", allowing users to filter content according to language or genre. 

Also, there's exclusive channels that are only available on Astro GO (yes, these are not available on Astro's TV channels). These exclusive channels are Comedy Central, K-Plus (for Korean drama fans), and ANIPLUS (for those who likes to watch Japanese anime and pop culture).

Like the previous app, the Astro GO allows subscribers to watch most of the contents that were part of the subscribed packages. For example: Those who subscribed for the Sports Package will be able to watch a live football match, or a basketball game on their devices. (Note: Some channels/contents may not be available on Astro GO as the company may not have the rights to show these contents on devices)


It's just the beginning

According to Astro's vice president of digital products Ridhuan Sidek, there will be new features to be introduced over the near-term. 

First, it plans to offer more HD (high-definition) contents to subscribers. The Astro GO will soon be able to cast their favourite programmes from a handheld device onto the TV screen (without the need for a HDMI cable). 

"There will also be more exclusive Astro GO contents," said Ridhuan. 

Other new features include content gifting (for example: buy a movie on Astro First, and send it as a gift), immersive sports control, family share, and others.

Ridhuan added that the company plans to launch a similar service to non-Astro pay-TV customers in May. He did not reveal further information on the new service.

The Astro GO app also comes with artificial intelligence, machine learning capabilities. The machine learning capabilities were provided by US-based software company ThinkAnalytics.

As subscribers watch contents on the app, it will start to learn and understand the user's content preference. Over time, it will be able to recommend the right content to the user.

"It doesn't just track the contents you watch, it also take note on the contents you watch entirely, or those that you stopped watching halfway," said Ridhuan.


Related Stories:

Astro Malaysia expects subscribers and advertisers to spend more this year

Beyond the TV for Astro
Astro launches ‘on’the’go’ service, iPad version first off the mark

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