Netflix-type wars: Grove’s Catcha takes on Singtel’s Hooq with iflix
By A. Asohan March 10, 2015
- Over 30 content partners on board, will launch with over 10,000 hours of content
- To launch initially in Malaysia and Philippines by end-Q2, other SEA markets to follow
AFTER weeks of market buzz, Internet entrepreneur Patrick Grove’s Catcha Group has officially announced ‘iflix,’ its entry in the Video On Demand (VOD) space, just about a month after Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (Singtel) unveiled its own Netflix-type service.
Kuala Lumpur-based Catcha has partnered with New York- and Los Angeles-based Evolution Media Capital (EMC), a merchant bank focused on the media, sports, and entertainment industries, to form a Catcha subsidiary called iflix.
The new company has an approximate headcount of 75 across the region. Catcha declined to give investment figures, but said it is the primary shareholder in the business. Evolution Media Capital managing partner Rick Hess will join the iflix’s board of directors.
Details are still sketchy at the moment, but in an official statement, Catcha said the subscription-based iflix will be launching throughout 2015 in key South-East Asian markets, including Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
While playing to the multi-screen market, iflix also has a distinct mobile focus aimed at the region’s growing smartphone penetration rate.
When Singtel announced Hooq, it cited the high rates of piracy in the region and how its service would allow South-East Asians get access to legal content at an affordable price. The service was scheduled to first roll out in the Philippines.
Catcha’s iflix raised the same issue of piracy, saying that “iflix will fight entertainment piracy and provide an entirely new and legitimate way for the region’s hundreds of millions of Internet users to enjoy their favourite films and television shows.”
Singtel’s Hooq was launched in partnership with Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
When asked about the competition from Hooq and what big guns iflix had on board, Grove (pic) told Digital News Asia (DNA) that “there are three things that stand out for us: The content we offer, the simplicity of our experience, and the price you won’t be able to say no to.”
“We are connecting South-East Asia to the best entertainment by providing a service that allows viewers to stream, download and watch top quality content.
“We have thus far partnered with over 30 of the top content providers globally, and will continue to grow as we secure more distribution partners.
“This will give members over 10,000 hours [of content] in 2015, and it will continuously grow as more distribution partners are added,” he said.
Grove, the Catcha chief executive officer and a DNA Digerati50, said iflix will launch initially in Malaysia and the Philippines before the end of the second quarter, with additional South-East Asian markets to follow throughout the year.
Pricing information is not available currently but will be soon, with Grove saying “stay tuned” and adding that iflix has endeavoured to keep its pricing as low as possible.
Each subscription will allow a user to access content on five devices, as well as download content to their mobile, tablet, computer, or television set (via a media player), Catcha said in its official statement.
iflix has adopted a mobile-oriented business model, directly targeting a booming market opportunity. Citing an Our Mobile Planet report, it said the number of South-East Asian smartphone users and households with fixed-line broadband is expected to grow in excess of 240 million and 55 million respectively by 2018.
Between 14% and 38% of these smartphone users are already watching long-form videos on their devices, it added.
But Grove is also cognisant of the fact that the quality of Internet access infrastructure varies widely across South-East Asian markets.
When asked how iflix would ensure a consistent user experience across the various markets, he said, “For every market we enter, user experience is key for us. We constantly strive to be the best, and provide our customers with the best service and content possible.
“Obviously penetration and infrastructure is far from consistent across the region, and will to some extent determine our rollout schedule.
“However, if iflix is available in your market, you should have no problem getting the best experience possible,” he declared.
As for the danger of iflix users pirating the content, he said the service would employ “the best security for DRM (digital rights management) available to protect the use and licensing of our content.”
Piracy is rampant in South-East Asia not only because of the relatively high price of legitimate content, but also because many entertainment buffs want to sidestep the heavy-handed censorship some jurisdictions practise.
In Malaysia, for instance, TV stations have been known to snip kissing scenes, while even mild profanity is frowned upon, transforming some of the edgier shows into near silent movies.
Bad news for such buffs: When asked if iflix would censor content, Grove said: “We will always comply with local legislation and regulations.”
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