Tonton sees strong mobile growth
By Karamjit Singh May 15, 2012
- Five- to sixfold rise in revenue for video portal
- Increasing number of viewers on mobile devices
THE rising popularity of Media Prima Berhad’s online video property, www.tonton.com.my, is validating the company’s decision to go in with both feet into the digital space and not with a gradual approach where investment is justified by market traction.
Lam Swee Kim, group general manager of New Media & Integrated Marketing at Media Prima, feels that the RM10 million investment has been worth it.
“We were so far ahead of the game when we started that advertisers could not appreciate our value proposition. It was not easy to convince them either.
“At the same time it took us a year to fix the bugs and tweak our business model to the point where it is today,” she says.
But Lam clearly likes where tonton is today.
As of this April, the high-definition online video portal has seen a five- to six-fold increase in its annual revenue versus March 2011.
“There is traction,” says Lam, adding that advertisers are also asking about the site, which is a big change from the early days when it would be close to the end of the month and she would be wondering if they could close any deals for the month ahead.
Today, advertisers are forward-buying up to three months ahead and the site has clients varying from those in the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) space to the telcos.
While the gradual commercial traction is sweet (Lam won’t provide any revenue figures), what is more important to Media Prima is that tonton has managed to capture a new segment of viewers and more importantly, even brought them over as TV viewers.
While it was worried initially about cannibalising its TV audience, one of the main drivers to launch tonton was the belief that traditional media such as print and TV will inevitably lose its audience to the online world. Therefore Media Prima needed to position itself to play in that space.
The fact that the reverse has happened comes as a welcome surprise.
“We found that because of their interest in our local shows on tonton, which are screened after their broadcast on TV, some of the online viewers wanted to see their favourite shows when they appeared, and not the delayed (viewing time on tonton). This drove a new set of viewers to the shows,” says Lam (pic).
e same time, Media Prima has discovered something very interesting: Ratings for shows which have an online element to them tend to be higher.
“So, we put a lot of effort into adding an online element, in real time, to our shows. We find viewers are increasingly watching TV with their tablets, which is where the interactivity element plays out,” says Lam.
That aside, tonton is geared to offering viewers a great experience, part of which includes keeping the main page clean, she adds.
“The user experience has to be very good and we don’t want them to see ads as soon as they land on our site. And unless it is a very premium client, we will not put an ad on the main page.”
Interestingly, larger advertisers today even have a guideline that they will not advertise on a site which pushes ads to users when they log on.
The portal enjoys three peak viewing periods during the weekday at 8.30am to 9.30am, noon to 2pm, and 9pm to midnight with traffic dropping by half during the weekends.
Mobile leading growth
The inevitable introduction of a mobile app happened last September with the first three months witnessing an amazing 100% growth per month, Lam claims.
Today, out of the 400,000 daily weekday page views, 100,000 originate from mobile devices which include phones, tablets and other devices.
Lam says that tonton currently sees 25% of its visitors using mobile devices to access the site, which is a high ratio going by global yardsticks. Most markets see an average of 10% access.
“Today, this substantial mobile access ratio even puts us at a more advanced plane than what is predicted for mature markets in 2016, which is between 15% to 19%,” she notes. Her prediction is that by the end of the year, almost 50% of users will visit the site from mobile devices.
Currently 50% of mobile users are on iOS devices with 40% using their iPad to access tonton. Android numbers are rising fast though, she notes.
They are also currently experimenting with pushing suitable ads to viewers who visit the site using tablets and mobile phones. The ad engine tonton uses is robust enough that it can recognise a mobile visitor and will not push a 30-second ad, which according to Lam, is too long on a mobile.
Sending the right type of ads to users is all part of the value proposition to ensure the best user experience for viewers. This is why Media Prima launched tonton with an investment north of RM10 million and with partners like Accenture and Akamai.
A key tool it has is its adaptive streaming engine which can detect the bandwidth of each visitor and adjust the quality of the video being shown. For instance, three viewers of the same video will each see a version customised to run smoothest on the bandwidth they are currently on. While tonton can deliver hi-def video, it defeats the purpose of doing so to a user on a mobile network.
‘We were so far ahead of the game’
Since the concept of video advertising was so new when tonton launched, it took a long time for the portal to educate advertisers on the value of the site and its viewers, but this has now changed.
“This year, suddenly the industry has realised that video advertising is the way forward if they want a targeted and premium audience,” says Lam.
In the beginning from late 2010 through 2011, she says tonton was up against advertisers who were locked into the numbers game. With 14 million internet users in the country, they were used to buying into sites which had millions of visitors.
But here you had tonton coming into the picture with an addressable audience of 50% of the Internet users who watched video online. Tonton’s audience was further filtered by the fact that it was 35 and below and skewed towards females, who comprise about 60% of its viewers.
“To us, this was a premium and targeted audience but the problem was, advertisers back then were not willing to pay premium rates,” Lam says.
What has triggered the change she has seen this year is probably a combination of advertisers becoming more aware of the value of video advertising and a targeted audience, coupled with the strong viewership numbers of tonton.
“We just passed one million unique visitors per month, with between 10,000 to 12,000 new registered users a week. At our peak, we had 30,000 registered users a week.
“What is more compelling is that within 24 hours, 75% of our unique visitors return to the site,” claims Lam.
That’s why tonton is the top video portal in the country, she adds. With Media Prima owning all the free-to-air TV properties in the country, it will be interesting to see if Astro decides to experiment with its broadcast content to entice the large online community of Malaysia.
Note: This article was updated to correct figures around tonton's registered users