Viet Nam needed to build a legal framework to promote the development of over-the-top (OTT) media services as the Government strives to build a digital economy and accelerate digital transformation, experts have said.

Nguyen Quang Dong, director of the Institute for Policy Studies and Media Development, said OTT media services, including video-on-demand (VOD), were different from traditional broadcasting services, so required a different management framework.

Dong said that a separate decree should be developed for OTT and VOD services.

According to Konstantin Matthies from market research and strategy consultancy company Alpha Beta, Viet Nam could become a centre for digital content production in the region, if a favourable environment for OTT, especially VOD, was created.

He cited a report saying that investments in VOD services would reach an estimated US$10.1 billion in Asia in 2020 (3.7 times higher than spending in 2017), adding this sum was expected to generate a value three times higher.

For Viet Nam, VOD would bring a number of benefits and opportunities, especially directly stimulating the development of the country’s film industry and helping Viet Nam become one of the leading countries for film industry development in Southeast Asia by 2020 and in Asia by 2030, he said.

According to the Viet Nam Pay Television Association Tran Van Uy, local pay television channels need a fair playing ground with cross-border OTT services providers in Viet Nam.

He said foreign OTT services providers must also comply with local regulations, adding that it was unreasonable that domestic providers had to comply with regulations while foreign providers did not.

Nguyen Ngoc Lanh, deputy director of VTC Digital, said it was still difficult to manage the compliance of tax and content regulations of cross-border OTT service providers in Viet Nam.

Lanh also pointed out that average revenue per user for pay television in Viet Nam remained low, so many local providers faced losses and did not have the money to invest in content, leading to harsh competition from foreign providers.

He stressed that a level playing field should be created for both domestic and foreign OTT services providers.

According to Nguyen Le Tan from VTC Television, investing in OTT services is an unavoidable trend but most domestic providers are now incurring losses.

For the success of OTT services, a good internet platform and appropriate support from the Government were necessary, besides interesting content, Tan said. However, the legal framework for OTT services in Viet Nam needed to be improved.

A report by the Asia Video Industry Association pointed out that copyright infringements were also a problem that was hindering the development of domestic OTT service providers.

The Ministry of Communications and Information is considering amendments to Decree 2016/2016/ND-CP about managing broadcasting services, including policies for OTT media services.