Originally published in: AsiaTVForum.com

MYANMAR CALLING – Grappling with growth

Not too long ago, CNBC reported on Myanmar being in the midst of a digital transformation. According to Hootsuite, more than 80% of Myanmar’s population today is digitally connected through smartphones.

Phandeeyar Director Jes Kaliebe Petersen observed a definite sense of hunger to get access to data and technology, and data and information – maybe precisely because the country was so closed off before.

In 2014, when the government granted telecom licenses to Qatar’s Ooreedo and Norwegian telecom operator Telenor, the cost of SIM cards went from $200 to $1.50 overnight, followed by a drastic slashing of data usage pricing.

Social media participation skyrocketed to 14 million users, or a quarter of the population, making it the most popular form of entertainment in a country with few entertainment options. The smartphone has become their TV, their tablet, their computer.

All this in the wake of Myanmar’s traditional TV realm being given wings to fly. It was reported that the government has loosened its grip, allowing five new broadcasters or content providers to operate. This means the need for more content across the board.

Aye Hnin Swe (aka Rose) is the Managing Director of Mango Media, Mangosteen PR and Wave Digital. In her 15 years of experience, Rose is convinced that today, syndicated program is the way to go, citing Myanmar Idol being the biggest success of Myanmar’s TV industry in the last 3 years.

Aye Hnin Swe
Managing Director
Mango Media, Mangosteen PR and Wave Digital

In fact, its popularity has surpassed Burmese obsession with Korean drama series, which normally takes the highest of ratings. Though a foreign format made local, it does offer signs of favoured content across the nation of nearly 55 million people. “Local drama series developed locally is also one of the top preferential programs,” said Rose.

But what of the biggest challenge/difficulties that Myanmar’s TV industry is facing today? According to Rose, local production quality, investment from advertisers, long-term partnership plans and an understanding of programing top the list. Bracing this uphill battle, Mango Myanmar is going ahead with a program they are developing together with a local TV station. At this juncture however, due to confidentiality issues, Rose cannot as yet provide more information on this.

Yet, Rose admits that the thing most lacking in the industry is local content and looking at quality production, home-grown content is a challenge. This, coupled with prognostications that 2018 will bring a drop in the share of ad spend will be a test of spirit and resourcefulness among the Burmese TV community.

For now, however, Myanmar’s top 3 most successful formats today are music contest, drama series, football – EPL and the SEA Games.

“We don’t have much American content apart from Myanmar Idol, Where Dreams Meet, X Factor and Myanmar’s Got Talent. Korean Drama series and Thai horror series are quite popular in Myanmar,” Rose noted, looking at the current share of local content, Asian content and Western content.

Will new strategies help the industry along? “Some of our clients would like to explore new ideas on TV, but the challenge is at the TV station,” Rose informed.

For those looking to get into the game early on, Rose feels that collaboration is more likely to take place, depending on the business growth.