Pay-TV upsets the established analogue order in Vietnam

In Vietnam, television is still king, but as cable networks increase, the crown is shifting. Our 2011 Audience Measurement Survey found that state-owned analogue channels are increasingly losing audience share to pay-TV offerings, while in the long-term, the Internet may dethrone them all.

Vietnam's TV channels reach over 80% of the urban population on a daily basis. This is almost double the number of people using the Internet every day - although this is on the increase too. The average person now tunes in for almost three hours a day. Television continues to prove that, so far, it is the most effective and efficient vehicle to deliver commercial messages to the public. True to trend, in 2011, TV media attracted 81% of Vietnam's total ad expenditure. The rapid expansion of cable networks has significantly contributed to TV's successes in Vietnam. Crucially, they have laid the ground for domestic and international pay-TV channels to bloom in recent years. Now they are blossoming. In 2011, over 85% of homes in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City received a TV signal via cable networks
instead of the free-to-air antennas still popular in rural areas.

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More cable means more choice

The increased penetration of pay-TV channels through cable networks means more choice for the discerning urban viewer. Nowadays, an average household in Ho Chi Minh City can flick between 70 channels. Similarly, in Ha Noi they can choose between 45 channels. It's all a far cry from five years ago, when, via their antiquated free-to-air antennas, the cities' residents were restricted to a handful of analogue channels with poor reception.

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Overthrowing the old guard

For these analogue channels - which are 100% owned and largely statefunded - the proliferation of pay-TV offerings on the cable platform has been troubling. They have rapidly increased competition for audiences. As a consequence, audience markets in Vietnam have become more fragmented than ever before. Even the biggest analogue channels, which once dominated the market, are losing audiences to the new offerings - the majority of which were started in partnership with foreign partners. Kantar Media's TAM data shows that the audience share of pay-TV channels in urban Vietnam has more than doubled in just over three years. This is in stark contrast to what is happening among the top 10 largest analogue channels, including those from VTV and HTV station: between 2007 and 2011, audience share has dropped from 72% to 41%.

New media, new challenges

However, the threat to television's throne won't come from increased competition from television channels. Instead, it will be challenged by new media, such as the Internet and mobile devices. Our 2010 MHS revealed that 41% of homes in the four major Vietnamese cities are hooked up to the net. The average 15-54 yearold Viet urbanite spends 56 minutes a day surfing the web - compared to 175 minutes watching TV.

I'd rather be online

But this could be set to change. With two-thirds of the country's recent urban Internet users under 30-yearsold, in the coming years the Internet will compete strongly with television for younger audiences. What's more, this demographic spends an above average 85 minutes a day online. The pressure from the Internet on younger TV audiences is even more apparent in Ha Noi and HCM City. Here, an average 15-29 year old spends 111 and 84 minutes a day, respectively, using the Internet. As highlighted by the figures right; these days, in Vietnam's biggest cities, you can reach younger people via the Internet almost as well as through TV media. So, today, television is still king. But it will have to adapt to Vietnam's changing media landscape if it is to keep its crown.

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Mai Tran is Managing Director, Kantar Media Vietnam. She is based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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