Subscription video-on-demand service iflix, which has focused on emerging markets, has completed a $133 million funding round led by Hearst.
The financing round also included such new investors as Singapore-based EDBI and clients of private bank DBS, as well as existing shareholders Sky, John Malone's Liberty Global, Evolution Media, Catcha Group, Jungle Ventures and PLDT Inc.
Since going live in May 2015, iflix has been expanding to 19 markets across Asia, the Middle East and Africa and struck distribution partnerships with 27 telecommunications operators to bundle its service with customers’ mobile and data subscriptions.
"During the period, iflix also achieved tremendous growth across subscriber numbers and engagement by three times and two times, respectively, and recorded some of the highest average active mobile viewing durations of any service in the world at 2.5-2.75 hours per session," the company, which offers Hollywood and local content, said.
"iflix is riding the wave of exponential growth of the middle class in emerging markets that want more access to premium regional, local and Western content," said Neeraj Khemlani, president of Hearst entertainment and syndication.
iflix has been pushing into original content, recently debuting in Malaysia its first original production, stand-up comedy series Oi Jaga Mulut. And last week, iflix Philippines unveiled a collaboration with the Philippines’ "queen of all media," Kris Aquino, for an original drama series.
"We are thrilled to welcome Hearst president and CEO Steven Swartz and Hearst entertainment & syndication president Neeraj Khemlani to the iflix family," said iflix co-founder and group CEO Mark Britt said. "As iflix continues to grow and pioneer new ways for consumers to enjoy entertainment on their terms, we were looking for a partner who could bring additional expertise and knowledge to our business. Hearst is a leading investor and has many of the world’s most innovative and iconic video brands, including ESPN, A+E Networks, Vice, AwesomenessTV, Complex and more. This collaboration significantly deepens our bench of experts with our longstanding partners Evolution Media, Sky and Liberty Global to help drive iflix’s continuing growth."
He added: "These new funds will allow us to further execute on our local content strategy and expand our technology and development teams so we can continue to rapidly evolve the iflix service to meet the unique challenges of emerging markets."
Said Evolution Media founder and co-managing partner Rick Hess: "As a founding partner of iflix, Evolution Media, along with Catcha Group and Mark, were inspired by the opportunity to reach the ‘next’ 1 billion consumers. The phenomenal growth of iflix has challenged many of the preconceptions we have in Hollywood about how entertainment is
consumed in emerging markets around the world. It's fascinating to see iflix learn, scale and forge this new path."
And Catcha Group co-founder and group CEO Patrick Grove said: “Today marks the next step in our journey in creating a category defining company that revolutionizes the way people in emerging markets consume and enjoy content."