Hooq CEO predicts ‘dead bodies’ as Southeast Asia SVOD market faces consolidation

The chief executive of Singtel-owned streaming video on-demand platform Hooq sounded a warning to rivals at the launch of the brand in Singapore last night, saying there will be “dead bodies” this time next year as the OTT market in Southeast Asia begins to consolidate.

Peter Bithos

Talking to Mumbrella at a well-attended launch event, Hooq CEO Peter Bithos said that to compete in Southeast Asia’s competitive OTT market takes “takes deep pockets, patience and hard work,” and the local market players would be the first to fall.

“This time next year you’ll see some dead bodies on the floor, not everyone’s going to make it. But we’ll be around,” Bithos told Mumbrella.

Singapore is Hooq’s fifth market – and first developed market – having first entered the Philippines in February 2015, and later in India, Indonesia and Thailand. Bithos said that the brand aimed to be be in Malaysia, Vietnam and the Middle East this time next year.

On the challenges of competing in the cut-throat OTT space against the likes of Netflix, Iflix, Viu and Catchplay, he commented: “It’s a very high fixed cost game – the content providers make sure of it. To sustainably compete and make that long journey of getting paid customers takes deep pockets, and a lot of time, patience and hard work.”

“The first to go will be the local players in the individual markets. They just won’t be able to keep up,” Bithos said.

“We’re already starting to see some of that happening. It’s really hard going in Thailand. You’re going to see it in Indonesia. In the Philippines, there are almost no local players left.”

“And regionally, not everyone is going to keep pace,” he predicted.

Hooq has left it relatively late to enter its home market because the firm has had to get the content mix right first, Bithos explained.

“From the very beginning we’ve been the only player focused on deep content locally. When we launched, and to this date, we have had the largest catalogue of local content in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.”

“The reason we’re excited about Singapore is that we spent 18 months putting together the content catalogue that is up to the diversity of this market.”

“Here, you need Bahasa, Filipino, Hollywood, and you also need Chinese and Malay, which we’ll be adding on in the next 90 days. If you don’t have that blend, you end up as a niche and interesting to only a very small segment of Singapore,” he said.

“We’re the only player that is coming in with the full diversity of content needed to win in Singapore.”

High broadband speed, relatively low cost of data, high household income and propensity to pay for convenience are factors that spell out a strong market opportunity in Singapore, Bithos said.

Piracy will also be a key challenge which Bithos described as “very big in Singapore”.

Asked about the company’s growth figures, Bithos acknowledged that Hooq had not been very forthcoming in revealing the number of paid subscribers acquired since launching 20 months ago.

“We’re not 100% closed, but we’re not as open as others,” he said. “We are nearing 4m registered users. And we are nearing several hundred thousand new customers a month. The growth rate has really kicked up over the last three months. The number of paid users has doubled over the last four-five months, which have been dramatic for us.”

On the experience of competing in the OTT space, Bithos echoed the sentiments of his opposite number, Mark Britt, the CEO of Iflix, who has described it as “tough, messy and like a knuckle fight”.

“It’s like Fight Club,” said Bithos. “You take your licks. But you get to give a few of your own at the same time. And you better enjoy it, because you’re going to come again another night.”

“Singapore is our fifth country, our first developed market – and I like our chances,” he said.

Hooq is going to market in Singapore with a two pronged approach; partner marketing through telcos, initially Singtel, which will make up around half of the brand’s activity, and as a standalone brand through digital and on-ground activation.


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