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Is Online Media Streaming Taking Off in Myanmar?

Recently, Myanmar has seen a series of launching events for online streaming apps  such as Cookie, W, Myanflix, Viu, etc. by international telecom operators operating in the country. Such online media streaming platforms are new to the society here and one might think it was going to take long to build up local audience. But apparently, Myanmar customers can adapt to the new technology very fast. Prior to these launches, there were few platforms for local movies but they were not as popular as these new applications. Basically, these applications are platforms where customers can watch local and international movies without having to use credit card or any payment information. Since the card payment system is not that popular or widely used in Myanmar, these new online streaming applications have their competitive advantage by collaborating with telecom operators, which means, the payment system is coming through mobile data or credit balance on a SIM card.

In developed countries, cable TVs played great role in watching movies like HBO. And then there is Netflix, which is also a streaming service with monthly fees for a variety of TV shows, documentaries and movies, has become popular. With Netflix, one can choose several types of plans based on the number of accounts or the quality of the viewing. Now, Netflix is also available in Myanmar and its subscribers are growing day by day despite the fact that it has to use card payment system.

Netflix may have its own production of movies or the originals and it is easy to set up an account with redit/ debit card payment system, Myanmar’s newly launched streaming applications are well received by audiences as they offer different types of products suitable for Myanmar people.

For example, Cookie, collaborating with Ooredoo, offer international channels and even the most popular Game of Thrones Final Season in partnership with HBO, which attracts the attention of the international movie fans in Myanmar. On the other hand, Wowplay, an online streaming service exclusively for Telenor users, has been in the market for a while and it offers local and international movies and videos. Wowplay is more like a video platform, similar to YouTube. Wowplay users can download movies and then watch them offline. That is the advantage of Wowplay. A spokesperson from Wowplay said they have to buy the movies from the international movie producers and directors to be able to show them on Wowplay.

Another app available in Myanmar is Viu, which is a multinational Drama and movie app and its highlights include Korean drama series. Another app well-known among users is Myanflix, an online streaming app for Myanmar movies only. The spokesperson of Myanflix said that they have to buy the movies from the producers to make them available on Myanflix. But they have to wait for 9 months or so for the films that are selected for the Academy Awards or those that are shown in theaters. As for now, Myanflix is a free platform with no charges whatsoever.

 In collaboration with Telenor, all three of Wowplay, Viu and Myanflix have privileges for Telenor users. On the other hand, Cookie is accessible for any telecom users. Each and every platform has their own unique quality and features which makes them easier for audience to choose based on what they want to watch. It can be expected that these developments will contribute towards the betterment of movie industry in Myanmar.

Previously, as far back as a few years ago, it was not easy to get access to this many international channels and movies or local films. One or two decades ago, the rentals of local film-DVDs were popular. The cinemas were not developed either and those DVD rental shops were the only sources for the audiences to get to watch movies unless they were rich enough to install satellite TVs.

The first Myanmar film was recorded back in 1910s, which was more than a century from now. The records say that the first ever Burmese movie was recorded with the second hand camera. Today, the cameras and the equipment are all improved and can produce good quality films. But the quality of Myanmar’s movies is said to be lower than international standards. Even though the movie quality may not meet audience expecations, there is no doubt that the industry is making improvements. The movie industry was subject to political propaganda in the past but audience are hoping that the movies became more independent.

Recently, accessibility of the movies has improved, partly due to the new online streaming platforms. According to the official records, there are no less than 65 film companies in Myanmar. Since the intellectual property laws are not fully developed in Myanmar, the productions of high quality films are not improving as fast and much as it is supposed to be, as mentioned by the movie industry insiders.

Many movie lovers are interested in how international franchises and channels are going to impact on the movie industry in Myanmar. There will always be fans for local movies. According to the records, 53 million Myanmar people are sharing only around 103 cinemas across the nation – a very low cinema to people ratio for a relatively large South East Asian country. Cinemas are being built around Myanmar but it requires capital investments. Digital platform developments will allow more online streaming media and this may become one of the most accessed entertainment methods for millions of Myanmar people.