HOOQ gets $25M more in funding as fight for APAC SVOD heats up

HOOQ, the other Southeast Asia subscription video on-demand (SVOD) platform that wants to go toe-to-toe with Netflix (Malaysia’s iFlix also hopes it can punch above it weight), has gotten a $25 million cash infusion from its main investors – SingTel, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures.

The investment, disclosed through a SingTel stock exchange filing, has the telco ponying up $15.5 million and the two studios shouldering the rest. The funding brings HOOQ’s total investment to more than $95 million.

HOOQ claims the largest streaming video catalog in Asia – more than 30,000 titles – but wants to add more original content to its mix, a la Netflix and its newest competitor in the region, Amazon Prime Video, which jumped into the fray in the region last December

HOOQ is set for a soft launch this month in Singapore, rolling out in partnership with SingTel. It’s the fifth country HOOQ has deployed in; it’s also the wealthiest with high-quality Internet and superb mobile broadband.

HOOQ initially launched with partner Globe Telecom in the Philippines in January 2015. The rollouts that followed all involved SingTel affiliates, including Thailand (with AIS), Indonesia (with Telkomsel) and India (Airtel).

Although the filing didn’t expand on what the latest funding will be used for, it’s a good bet that some of the cash will be targeted at that vital original content, content that will set it apart from not only Netflix and Amazon, but also iFlix, PCCW’s Viu and Tribe in the region. It also likely will be used to help it expand more aggressively – and quickly – into new markets as the fight for subscribers intensifies among players.

CEO Peter Bithos described the latest capital infusion as a “drawdown” from originally committed amount.

Bithos also said HOOQ soon will be looking for outside investors for the first time, a sure sign that it, 1) is looking to accelerate its expansion beyond developing markets or, 2) is realizing that it takes deep pockets to really be a global player (or even a big regional player) in the SVOD environment, especially if you don’t own your content.

Getting users onto an SVOD service has been tough going for many operators in Southeast Asia and APAC as a whole.

According to a recent Kantar TNS survey, only 14% of Internet users in APAC’s developed countries use SVOD services, as do only 11% of those in emerging markets.

But HOOQ – as are most of the APAC regional players – is a relatively nascent entry to the market, launching in 2015. SingTel currently is its largest investor, with a 65% share. Sony and Warner Bros. split the remaining 35% equally between them.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn