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We’re more like Spotify than Netflix, says Iflix boss as OTT player debuts playlist feature

Britt: 'We've raised $90m. We need several hundred million more'

Britt: ‘We’ve raised $90m. We need several hundred million more to do what we want to do’

The boss of Iflix has said that the working definition for his company has shifted radically since launching two years ago, and the Malaysia-born video-on-demand provider should be likened not to rival Netflix but to music streaming service Spotify as it rolls out a new curated playlist feature.

In a session at the Content Asia Summit today, Mark Britt, the co-founder and CEO of Iflix, told his audience that his company had set out to be a “baby Netflix” when it launched in 2014, but “trying to be someone else fundamentally doesn’t work” when serving emerging markets.

“So you go on this journey of self-discovery and you say, well what’s Iflix?” he said.

“You go away from being an aspiring Netflix clone, as TechCrunch might say, and actually try to be the first Iflix, which is a product specifically built for emerging markets,” Britt said in an on-stage interview with Content Asia editorial director Janine Stein.

The new curated content feature, which has just gone live, recommends content based on the preferences of the celebrities and influencers users follow in social media.

Britt said the new function had to work in a very different way to content recommendation functions in the US, because of cultural sensitivities that do not exist in English-speaking markets.

“In Malaysia, recommending Korean or Malay content to an Indian or Chinese community is a tremendous technology problem, because if you get it wrong it’s culturally quite offensive,” he said.

“So the entire recommendation question in markets where you have this extraordinary diversity of culture and content is a fundamentally different problem.”

“We realised 12 months ago that actually the metaphor is wrong. We don’t think the browse-through-lots-of-content metaphor even works. We think the metaphor for Iflix is not Netflix, it’s Spotify.”

Britt said industry players needed to stop assuming that emerging markets are “going to grow up and look like mature markets,” and start thinking from the user’s point of view.

One way to win viewer share from content piracy websites, which Britt said pose a bigger competitive threat than traditional television, is to introduce director’s cut and commentary features, which give more “purpose and meaning” to shows that customers are passionate about.

“We think you can built a product that’s better than piracy. We think that you can connect the creators and their ideas with the community in real time around the content that they love,” he said.

A new play for Iflix is original content, and Britt said that one of the things the company has learned since exploring making its own material is to “go crazy” and look to create productions that would never run on mass market television.

“There’s a whole bunch of ideas out there that are still made for yesterday’s world, in 22-minute formats, still being built for ads and censorship,” he said.

“And there’s a whole bunch of rampant creativity out there, that’s really different, that doesn’t really have a platform. There aren’t that many documentaries about transexuals that you can put on Astro.”

“We look at that space and think Iflix has the opportunity to do something different. What we don’t want to do is just make more television,” said Britt, adding that 60-70% of Iflix’s shows have never aired in traditional media.

The success of a show on Iflix is not gauged by viewing frequency but by “binge intensity,” explained Britt.

“We measure binge intensity by the number of hours between consumption of different episodes. The more intense it is, the greater the emotional connection.”

Talking to Mumbrella after his session, Britt shared that the genres Iflix users are bingeing on the most are horror, sci-fi and manga.

The average Iflix user doesn’t use the service every day. But when they do, they start watching at around 9pm and watch for between one and a half hours and – in the Philippines – up three and a half hours, Britt shared.

“Primetime for us is midnight through to 2am,” he said.

Britt said that the company, which received US$45m in backing in March on top of $30m in funding the previous year, had no plans to enter mature media markets such as Singapore, Korea, Taiwan or Australia.

These markets, he said, are “well done by the pay-TV industry, and by large established incumbents who know those businesses much better than we do.”

Where Iflix will be venturing is emerging markets that have nothing in common except a certain socio economic level, smart phone penetration, lack of paid-TV options, and sufficient infrastructure to support IPTV, he said.

These markets include the likes of Kuwait, Morocco, Lesotho, Ghana and Malawi.

Iflix will be up and running in Vietnam and Pakistan over the next 60-90 days, Britt revealed, having recently launched in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Brunei.

The Australian was asked whether Iflix would be adding a linear streaming option, which has recently been announced by US-based internet television giant Hulu. He responded: “You will see it before christmas.”

The interview began with Britt drawing attention to his company’s two-year milestone. He said: “When you wake up every day and look at the change going on in the industry at a customer level, the change is so fundamentally profound, we got very good at saying, I don’t know, I have no idea.”

However, he later added: “We’ve raised US$90m. I think we need to raise several hundred [million] more to do what we’re trying to do.”

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