Telecom giant Singtel is planning to beat Netflix to the punch in Asia after it announced it has partnered with Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers to introduce a video streaming service in the region.
The companies said that HOOQ — which is described as a “joint venture startup” — will offer Hollywood movies and U.S. TV shows alongside domestic content from India, China, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Korea and Japan. In total, HOOQ will begin with an initial catalog of over 10,000 shows and movies.
There’s no specific launch date, but Singtel said the service will go online in the first quarter of 2015, initially in Indonesia, Philippines, India and Thailand. From there, the telecom giant is promising a ‘progressive rollout’ to other countries where it has business — other Singtel markets include Singapore, and Australia.
Also lacking from the initial announcement is an indication of price, but — interestingly — it looks like customers won’t be limited to paying via credit cards, as is the case with Netflix. Singtel said it will use its “billing capabilities” in countries where credit card ownership remains low, so that may mean customers can pay as part of their post-pay contract, and perhaps even using prepaid credit.
The timing of the launch is interesting because Netflix has not arrived in Asia Pacific yet. The U.S. company is preparing to launch in Australia and New Zealand in March of this year, after which it is likely to foray into Asian markets, so HOOQ will almost certainly be first in many parts of the region. You could see that as a first mover advantage, or a move that is good for the industry in general because it raises awareness of OTT video services in nascent markets.
Nonetheless, Peter Bithos, the CEO of HOOQ, believes that there is an immediate demand for Netflix-like video streaming services in Asia.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Piracy and lack of awareness are often cited as major barriers for licensed streaming services in Asia but, with two content companies and one telco on board, HOOQ is no bootstrapped startup. It could use Singtel’s network of operators — which reach a total subscriber base of over 500 million customers — and vast resources to gain traction from the get-go.
No doubt we’ll be hearing more updates from HOOQ very soon.