Singapore: HOOQ Adds 50 Free Channels to Battle Netflix in Indonesia

HOOQ CEO Peter Bithos - P 2018

The Southeast Asia-focused streamer, backed by Sony Pictures Television and Warner Brothers, is adding free content to its subscription offering in a bid to secure market share against Netflix and Amazon.

HOOQ, the Southeast Asian streaming service backed by Sony Pictures Television and Warner Brothers, has inked a deal to add up to 50 online channels to its free content offering. The company says the plan has a singular purpose: to boost HOOQ's "continual effort to corner the Indonesian market."

HOOQ is partnering with online advertising placement and collection agency uCast to deliver the channels within the free tier of the HOOQ app. The media brands featured in the channels include Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, Fail Army and others. Each channel offers a continuous feed of shortform branded content, as well as on-demand offerings. An initial batch of 15 channels will begin rolling out across the service in December, with as many as 35 more to debut over the coming months.

The deal was announced Wednesday at Singapore's Asia TV Forum (ATF). 

HOOQ launched in 2015 as a startup subscription-video platform (SVOD) targeting the growing economies of Southeast Asia, which boast a collective population of approximately 650 million. Over time, the company has diversified its offering to accommodate the realities of the emerging Southeast Asian consumer landscape, adding a broad, ad-supported video tier (AVOD), as well as low-cost subscription day passes to go with its weekly and monthly membership offerings.

In addition to the 50 new branded channels, HOOQ recently introduced 16 free-to-air channels in the platform’s free Live TV section, including Al Jazeera, K-Drama, Lejel Home Shopping and other live channels from regional television broadcasters. More free-to-air channels will be added by the end of the year, HOOQ says.

HOOQ currently operates in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, India and Indonesia. But Indonesia, with its enormous population of 265 million, remains the company's primary focus. All of the new branded channels will be available in Indonesia with subtitles in Bahasa Indonesian, HOOQ says.

"HOOQ has been laser focused on winning in Indonesia and will continue to invest and innovate with our Indonesian offering," says Peter Bithos, CEO of HOOQ. "Adding uCast’s slate of online channels to the content mix not only diversifies but strengthen HOOQ’s existing content offering."

"We constantly innovate to meet the evolving needs of our subscribers as can be seen from the series of unprecedented industry-first moves we have made in the last one year — from daily sachets, to Live TV, to the offering of a skinny bundle and now the introduction of online channels," added Jennifer Batty, chief content officer of HOOQ. "

The new online channels and Live TV offerings complement the pool of content available to HOOQ's SVOD subscribers, which includes over 10,000 hours of local Southeast Asian films and shows, as well as blockbuster content licensed from Hollywood. HOOQ also has co-produced a number of Southeast Asian originals, including Mouly Surya's Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, which is Indonesia's submission for the best foreign-language film Oscar this year. 

HOOQ has carved out a leading position in Indonesia among the streamers — excluding YouTube — but it faces an onslaught of strong competition in the region, from developing market specialists like iFlix to global champions Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.