'Freebies' are no longer in fashion

'Freebies' are no longer in fashion

Bit Torrent is so yesterday.

The latest report from United States research firm Sandvine says video and music streaming - or "real-time entertainment" - continues to dominate Internet traffic over fixed broadband lines in North America.

Netflix and YouTube are soaking up the bandwidth of Americans with a 36.8 per cent and 15.56 per cent share of Internet downstream traffic, respectively, according to the half-yearly report by Sandvine which was released last week.

Bit Torrent, on the other hand, continues to decline from its peak share of 31 per cent back in 2008 to just 2.76 per cent currently.

While I am a big fan of streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Now, I am really surprised that Americans spend so much more time paying money to watch streaming content instead of using Bit Torrent - which is typically used to download movies illegally.

I am also surprised that Netflix's paying subscription service has twice as large a share as YouTube's free service - a sure sign that consumers are more than willing to pay for content if the price is right.

I wonder if these statistics are comparable in Singapore. With only a small percentage of users using VPN here to access geographically restricted content on streaming sites Netflix and HBO Now, I think Bit Torrent and YouTube probably own equal shares of the largest chunk of fixed broadband traffic here.

If Netflix, HBO Now and Amazon Video launched here officially and made VPN unnecessary, the numbers might well follow those of North America. The takeaway is that streaming services are a viable business proposition here and may well be the best counter to the world of Bit Torrent piracy which robs the content owner of any profit.

As Singapore is a small market, most of these streaming service providers appear to have ignored us. But Netflix's recent participation in giving feedback to the Infocomm Development Authority's public consultation on local interconnection fees is a sign that it may well have its eye on Singapore, particularly as it has been expanding its services globally. In March, it reached the shores of Australia and New Zealand.

In its feedback, US-based Netflix said major telcos can use interconnection fees to limit competition. It urged the Singapore authorities to re-look their earlier proposal to allow major telcos here to continue to charge interconnection fees to reach local broadband users.

Perhaps we are not as small a market as we make ourselves out to be, after all.

A recent study by gaming-market research firm Newzoo revealed that Singapore tops the list of annual spending per player for games in South-east Asia, even though it has a smaller population than Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand or Vietnam.

According to Newzoo's report, Singaporeans spent an average of US$189 (S$255) per capita last year on games across all platforms, more than five times as much as the next highest-spender in the region, which was Malaysia, with US$33.

Newzoo attributes it to Singapore's high standard of living and strong economy, the same factors that explain why foreign entertainment companies would be foolish to overlook Singaporeans' significantly deeper pockets, even if its total customer base is small.

ginlee@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on June 3, 2015.
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