PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. are banking on partnerships with OTT services like Netflix and Viu to bring content to Filipinos, driving data consumption.

“Data show that the fastest growing services are driven by OTT services like Netflix and Viu. It’s what people consume, in addition to YouTube. We have also seen how K-pop and K-drama have already become a part of popular culture and of Filipinos’ lives. A brand that is able to integrate itself into pop culture is a brand that will succeed,” said Jane J. Basas, SVP and Head of Consumer Wireless Business at Smart.

Basas also emphasized the importance of content in addressing the needs and wants of customers. 

“Average viewing hours have increased since the pandemic started over a year ago. Our customers, while safely cooped up in their homes, have also been seeking to escape from their daily routines through films and TV series,” Basas said. 

“We have partnered with the likes of Viu, Netflix, and YouTube because we understand both the work and play needs of our customers,” she added.

The Future of Video Streaming

At the recent Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) OTT Summit held in Singapore, industry leaders shared their insights about the future of video streaming.

“We invest heavily on content. We want our content to have very high engagement among our users, and translate into data usage for our telco partners,” said Helen Sou, Chief Business Officer-Asia at Viu, adding that their users generally consume around twice more data on their partner telcos. 

“This achieves very good levels of telco data usage for our telco partners, who have heavily invested in their 4G and 5G networks,” Sou added.

Tony Zameczkowski, VP Business Development for Netflix Asia, also highlighted at the same summit the importance of local partnerships in making Netflix more accessible to more customers. 

“Local operators bring their local experience, which has been very relevant to us when we expanded internationally,” he said. 

“In terms of partnership, we work with them to make Netflix more accessible, particularly in the emerging markets where the credit card penetration is extremely limited, and we rely on those partners to help us with payment. We have a number of direct carrier billing relationships with operators in this part of the world,” he added.

Enabling Passion Points

To support their customers’ passion for K-drama, Smart launched last year GIGA K-Video, which allows Smart prepaid subscribers to get free Viu Premium subscription to enjoy ad-free streaming, unlimited downloads of K-dramas and first to view episodes of top K-dramas via the Viu platform. Smart prepaid subscribers will never miss a single episode of their favorite K-dramas with 1GB/ day access to Viu Premium.

For its postpaid customers, Smart also upgraded its Smart Signature SIM-Only Plans, which are now exclusively bundled with a Netflix Mobile Plan subscription at no additional cost. Binge watch all Netflix shows starting with Plan S that comes with 10GB open access data monthly at P999 per month. Signature SIM-Only Plans also come with unlimited All-Net texts, unlimited All-Net calls, and free minutes of calls to PLDT.

In addition to video, Smart has also been leveraging partnerships to deliver esports content to its customers. 

Since 2017, Smart has been the partner of Shanghai-based developer Moonton in leveling up the Mobile Legends experience of Filipinos. Smart is also the official telco partner in the latest season of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League (MPL), the Philippines’ largest mobile esports league. 

Reinforcing its position as a staunch esports advocate, Smart enables Filipino gamers to level up their gameplay and keep connected with their peers via their favorite games with Free Games For All. With it, subscribers get a solid 1 GB/day, plus free 1 GB/day more to enjoy Mobile Legends and other top mobile games.

Super-Fast Data Service

Enabling this level of video and gaming experience is PLDT and Smart’s integrated fixed and wireless networks across the country. Smart’s mobile network, which has been cited by third-party analytics firm Ookla as the fastest mobile network in the Philippines, also serves 96% of the country’s population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.

Smart’s 5G rollout also opens the door to an even higher level of customer experience with its super-fast data service.

To date, Smart has fired up over 2,300 5G sites across the country including in all of Metro Manila’s cities and municipalities, and in the provinces of Benguet, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, Rizal, Cebu, Iloilo, Aklan, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Davao.

To complement this continuous expansion of Smart’s 5G network, Smart has also ramped-up its efforts to widen its array of Smart 5G-certified devices to make 5G easier to access and enjoy.

Recently, Smart launched Rocket WiFi, the country’s first and fastest 5G Pocket WiFi which enables 5G speeds on other devices for as long as they have a Wi-Fi connection.

Supporting these services is PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the country’s most extensive at 429,000 kilometers.

These initiatives form a large part of PLDT’s capital expenditures, which totaled P460.7 billion in the last ten years. To address the growing data needs of their fixed and wireless customers, PLDT and Smart are prepared to invest between P88 billion and P92 billion in capital expenditures in 2021.

*as of end-2019

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