Hooq looks to leverage SingTel in its Singapore launch

Hooq, the subscription video on-demand service backed by SingTel, Sony and Warner Bros., has deployed in Singapore, looking to gain a bigger foothold in its battle with Netflix.

The SVOD company, which claims the largest streaming video catalog in Asia at some 30,000 titles, has plans for major expansion in the region and, potentially, westward, but faces a raft of competitors. In addition to Netflix, it also faces regional challenges from AVOD and SVOD competitors like iflix, CatchPlay, Tonton and Viu.

Earlier this month, Hooq co-founder Krishan Rajagopalan told Mumbrella that successful SVOD services in Southeast Asia would have to leverage deals with telcos.

Singapore (a soft launch that will be expanded in January) marks 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).

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.

That’s led streamers to look for partners that can help get them in the door, in most cases, telcos that already have a billing relationship with consumers and are able to offer a streaming service as an add-on in many cases.

It’s a tactic Netflix has aggressively adopted globally, and one Hooq will depend upon.

“The most successful OTT brands – Hooq included – rely on (bundling) deals with telcos,” he told Mumbrella. “Getting consumers to convert from trialing to paid subscribers is proving to be very difficult. Which explains why some of the global players are really struggling in Asia. They haven’t been able to get traction.”

Rajagopalan said Hooq’s deals with “the strongest” telco players in its five markets will help it own each one.

Hooq CEO Peter Bithos, in an interview on Bloomberg in late November. meanwhile, said the streamer is aiming to dominate in “emerging markets,” and said it would look to leverage partnerships with operators in new markets for expansion.

Bithos said the service expects to have an addressable market in excess of 1.6 billion, “quite big enough for us today.” And, he said, it was unlikely to look for growth in China because the Internet ecosystem doesn’t have standard players like Google and Facebook, and its content market doesn’t match up with the rest of Hooq’s planned expansion.

“I don’t think we’ll directly link to China; our ambitions look westward,” he said. But HOOQ does use a significant amount of Chinese content, he said, which plays well in many of the markets HOOQ already is in.

Bithos also was non-committal on expanding to Hong Kong, saying that could change if a “great partner” was interested in working with Hooq there.

Stay tuned.

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