Singapore’s leading telco Singtel has announced today that it will launch an online streaming video service in Asia. It’s a joint-venture with Sony Pictures and Warner Bros, and will bring Hollywood movies, television series, as well as local programming to audiences in Indonesia, India, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Called Hooq, the web and mobile service will launch in the first quarter of this year, and will take advantage of Singtel’s carrier billing capabilities, a crucial feature given credit card adoption is weak in Asia. It will have 10,000 movies and TV series initially. Some featured programs include Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Friends, and Gossip Girl. Korean and Japanese titles will also feature.
Hooq will give users unlimited streaming content for a fee, and they’ll be able to download videos, which is useful in markets where 4G isn’t prevalent. It’ll also have a content recommendation engine. Pricing will be specific to each country, but will be pegged at the single-digits in US dollars, says Hooq CEO Peter Bithos.
Singapore Business Review reports that the deal is worth S$27.6 million (US$20.4 million). Singtel will own 65 percent of the joint venture, while Warner Bros and Sony Pictures subsidiary AXN will own 17.5 percent each.
The choice of Bithos as the Hooq CEO is interesting. Formerly the COO of Globe Telecom in the Philippines, he’ll now have to build a first-class consumer-facing internet service from the ground-up.
Given the Singtel network’s reach and distribution, Hooq has a chance to become relevant. Netflix is of course its biggest competitor, but expansion into Asia has been slow. It ventured into Australia and New Zealand last year, but there’s no word on when it’ll hit the other markets.
That said, title selection is a critical factor of success. With peer-to-peer file sharing as well as VPN services at any user’s fingertips, people can easily access the latest shows as they are released. Even as local versions of Netflix become available, it sometimes fail to draw in audiences due to the limited range of programs caused by licensing issues.
For Hooq to succeed, it’ll need to offer the most popular shows in a timely fashion along with a large collection of past titles. It’ll also need to make sure its user experience is top-notch.
“We are starting this venture to change the way people across Asia view entertainment. Today, across developing markets, there is limited access to quality entertainment, streamed directly to the screen of one’s choice. It’s either illegal, high cost or difficult to get. We aim to fix that,” says Bithos. Read more…