INTERVIEW: Ariya Banomyong, President/Director, BEC World plc (Thailand)

Thailand’s BEC World has a whole new approach at home and abroad. The company’s president and director, Ariya Banomyong, talks about what he’s thinking, where he’s going and why.  

Listed Thai broadcast powerhouse, BEC World, has a whole new approach to its regional and global profile. Initiatives include strengthening BEC World’s footprint for content (including co-production) around the region and also around the world; expanding partnerships at home and abroad; evolving its wholly owned national terrestrial TV brand, Channel 3, as well as embracing the domestic streaming environment in a country of 69 million people and upwards of 55 million mobile internet users.

The goal involves connecting TV and online audiences and looking at scaling tech platforms “knowing that we have very big platforms to compete against in Thailand,” says recently appointed president and director, Ariya Banomyong, who is driving the transformation from a TV broadcaster into a content and entertainment platform. He sees a blended future in which BEC World “is neither TV, nor digital, but both”. 

Banomyong joined the 49-year-old Bangkok-based company in May this year. Before BEC World, he was managing director of Line TV in Thailand for three and a half years, and before that he was the first country head for Google Thailand. Previous roles include chief commercial officer at True Corporation, which operates pay-TV platform TrueVisions. Talking about his latest career move, Banomyong says “85% of the content consumed in Thailand is local, and on TV. That’s why I joined BEC World. I see hope”.    

Struggling with many of the same issues as broadcasters everywhere in the world, Banomyong is well aware that all assets need to be leveraged in a new environment. “We produce the best drama series in Thailand. We have the best producers and 200 artists in our portfolio and most of them are superstars – these are our core assets,” he says.  BEC World artists include Yaya Urassaya, Kimmy Kimberley, Boy Pakom and Nadech. 

BEC World’s entertainment value lies in decades worth of drama IP, including prime-time drama series such as ratings record-breaker Love Destiny (already sold to 24+ countries), Thong Ek – The Herbal Master, Mr Merman, The Crown Princess and, most recently, the Thai adaptation of Korean scripted series, My Love from Another Star

Global initiatives ramped up last year with the first licensing/distribution agreement with Thai media company JKN Global Media, which has, among other volume deals, just sold 265 hours to TRA Media in Korea for its two cable channels – Smile TV Plus and TVA Plus. BEC World distributes its own content in China and some parts of Southeast Asia.

At home, while online audiences are growing fast, there’s still strong consumer attachment to free TV, Banomyong told audiences at the ContentAsia Summit in Singapore at the end of August. 

“TV remains a very effective marketing channel. Shows that are most popular on OTT come from TV. Users are shifting to these platforms but the revenue isn’t following quite yet,” he says.

BEC World is already an active player across online video platforms, with some stellar results. Top Thai drama, Love Destiny, for instance, was viewed a total of 1.5 billion times across online platforms Mello, YouTube and Line TV. That’s in addition to record TV ratings recorded by traditional Nielsen measurement. In September, Channel 3’s YouTube channel had 19.3 million subscribers. A recent episode of a new TV drama series, Plerng Rak Plerng Kaen (Burning Love), had upwards of 65,000 views 11 hours after it was uploaded. Episode one of the same drama had 1.2 million views and 10,000 interactions in 12 days. BEC World’s new streaming platform, Mello, had almost one million YouTube subscribers by mid-September. Up to 80% of Channel 3 viewers are on YouTube and Line TV. That’s some of what the BEC World/Channel 3 teams are working with in building out their new content and entertainment ambitions.    

Banomyong is pushing, along with others in the industry, a critical element for future viability – effective independent measurement. TV broadcasters need to unite to transform the ratings environment from just TV into TV+OTT, he says. “Unfortunately, the tech is there but the commercial agreements behind it [are not]. TV broadcasters need to push together to make this happen. The survival of the industry is at stake”. 

Meanwhile, he is under no illusion about Thailand’s subscription potential. Two thirds of Thailand’s population are classified as independent workers, and the country’s mobile services are largely pre-paid.

“Subscription is not going to happen in Thailand. We are an AVOD not a SVOD market,” he says. 40 million internet users use AVOD services, with YouTube at number one followed by Line TV. Thailand has an estimated one million SVOD subs across all platforms. Commonly used industry figures put the country’s average revenue per user for SVOD services at around THB160/US$5.  

“We are a large country in terms of usage but still not very big in terms of spending. It’s an issue of affordability,” Banomyong says.  

He outlines a five-point industry survival guide, led by his push for measurement that reflects TV and online viewing, and throwing light (or shade) at what he calls the “understated issue of cheap CPM”; the average CPM in Thailand is US$2 and that’s not sustainable, it needs to change, he says. Point three is driving the message that quality comes at a price – part of his anti-piracy and accountability position and his call for the support of government and regulators; “We can’t do this alone,” he says. Banomyong also includes a focus on the TV operating system – Apple, Android, etc – as an influencing factor. And finally, he says the industry needs to partner and consolidate. “If we don’t, most likely we will die”.  

Published in ContentAsia Issue Five 2019, 3 October 2019