While movies may be considered a democratic medium in much of the world, in developing countries – Cambodia included – they largely remain the domain of privileged city dwellers. With every major theatre located in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, many in the provinces miss out on some of the biggest films.
But now, that access has the potential to expand with two Netflix-like streaming services, Jaikon TV and Soyo, having hit the local market this month. The two apps from Westec Media and Sabay Media provide movies, television shows and original content to Cambodian audiences with an internet connection and $3 to spend each month.
“[We want] to offer another service [for subscribers] to enjoy movies at home,” said Felix Lao, the business development manager of Jaikon TV. “We see the demand.”
Both companies say they hope to foster local filmmaking while also combating rampant piracy.
“[There is] more benefit if [content creators] put it on Soyo,” said Chheang Leng South, Soyo’s business development manager. He reasons that the platform will give filmmakers more exposure and an added boost after films and shows have already had their run in theatres and on TV.
Jaikon’s Lao foresees a shift locally that is already beginning to happen in Western markets, in which streaming services will cut into the television market. For now, though, he believes that online services will remain a smaller player in the Cambodian media landscape.
Despite having launched virtually simultaneously, both Jaikon and Soyo say they are offering a unique service: content catered to local consumers.
Both companies hope to work with local content creators in the future on original shows and films, a strategy in which streaming giants like Netflix are increasingly investing.
While Jaikon TV and Soyo insist their impact will be positive for the local film and TV industry, filmmakers have given a more measured response.
“I think it both has good and bad consequences to the industry at this [current] condition,” said Sothea Chhin, who directed the commercial web series High School Love: My Class Monitor, which is available on Jaikon TV.
He would like to see local material pushed more aggressively, instead of international content. “[I] don’t know what is the strategy of the company who produces or manages the app. I do hope they will be more selective on the content they are showing and more supportive of local content.”
When Post Weekend spoke to the filmmakers, several of them were initially unaware that their films were uploaded on the streaming app.
“I don’t know how they work and what’s the deal they propose with filmmakers to put their movies in there. I have one of my films in Jaikon TV but I wasn’t part of the decision making, of putting the film in there,” said Jimmy Henderson, director of the movie Jailbreak, whose film Hanuman is on the platform. The film was produced and distributed by Westec Media, which created Jaikon TV.
Touch Oudom, director of the zombie movie Run, also produced by Westec, said he was unaware that his film had been uploaded to Jaikon TV until Post Weekend called him.
In response, Jaikon TV said that they have bought all the rights to films and TV series featured on their app.
Another filmmaker, Sothea Ines, is currently in talks with Soyo about a series of shorts, although she was unsure as to how payment would work.
In general, for original content, Soyo would “work with one local producer”, Leng said. “[We] give them the project and the budget and let them [explore].” As for non-original local content, Soyo has a partnership with Pu Prum Entertainment, which supplies all of its films.
Despite the confusion over payment and licensing rights, filmmakers are cautiously optimistic, taking a wait-and-see approach.
“There is potential if it’s cultivated well,” Henderson said. “Us, the filmmakers, we will have to patiently wait and see.”