Apple seeks bite of Asian content market
By Patrick Frater
Tue, 03 July 2012, 10:01 AM (HKT)
Apple last week made its iTunes service one of Asia's first (nearly) pan-regional online music and movie stores when it launched into 12 new territories in the region.
Having previously only been officially available within Australasia in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Apple last week unveiled local versions of the store in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
In doing so, it is expected to enable easy purchase of music from major and independent labels and Asian performers including Jay CHOU 周杰倫, Girls' Generation 소녀시대 and Andy LAU 劉德華. It will also enable rental or downloads-to-own of movies from major Hollywood studios including 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros.
Until now Asia's consumers have been unable to use the iTunes store unless they had a credit card, iTunes account or gift card registered in one of the service's other territories.
Notably not included in the Asian launch were three of the world's most populous nations, China, India and Indonesia. In these countries, the business model appears to have been impeded by licensing issues on one hand and high rates of piracy on the other.
Asia including China and India, is already one of the fastest growing regions for Apple hardware and its stores have now become familiar landmarks in Asia's major cities (pictured). In China there have famously even been instances of unlicensed Apple stores.
The move has received mixed reactions from the film and music industry in Asia. Some traditional music retailers have suggested that the launch was long expected and anyway that the virtual store does not offer the same advantages as a physical selection.
Others point to the way that many traditional video and music stores have already disappeared from Asian cities as their customers have simply taken content for free from more convenient — illegal — online sites.
However the expansion of iTunes could also be a benefit to local artists and local film-makers. As more local Asian content is added to the virtual stores, it will become easier for Asian consumers to legally rent and buy their works without resorting to the pretence that they are resident in other Apple territories such as the US or UK.
Asian film content is at the moment limited. For example, only one Asian movie — the hit romantic comedy Love Is Not Blind 失戀３３天 (2011) from China — is available on the Taiwan store. It features optional English subtitles, but no Chinese subtitles.
The Singapore store initially launched with several movies rated R21, including David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), which are only legally permitted to be screened in local cinemas. They were removed within hours of the launch.
Local content owners are expected to sign up and have their libraries present on Apple's virtual shelves in the coming months.
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