HOOQ, the online video platform backed by Singaporean telco giant Singtel, Warner Brothers and Sony Pictures, has launched its service in India. The subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service features 5,000 Hollywood movie and series titles and over 10,000 local ones. priced at 199 rupees ($3.20) a month, HOOQ will allow subscribers to stream content on up to five devices including PCs, smartphones and tablets.
HOOQ launched in the Philippines February 2015 and is scheduled to go live in Thailand in May and Indonesia shortly.The service is headed by former Globe Telecom and Optus Australia executive Peter Bithos.
Backed by two international entertainment giants, HOOQ enjoys an existing strong local presence in India. Sony owns local media company Multi Screen Media (MSM) with a 94% stake. MSM’s revenue was estimated at over $600 million in 2014 and flagship channels Sony TV and SAB TV commanded about 23% of the country’s Hindi general entertainment television viewership last year. Since 2009, Warner Brothers has operated WB Channel together with sister company Turner International, offering a mix of Hollywood movies and drama. Turner also dominates the Indian kids television market with Cartoon Network, Pogo and Toonami channels.
HOOQ also enjoys first-mover advantage in the market. No other international player is currently present in the online market. Competing with it are local OTT players including Star India’s Hot Star, Zee’s Ditto TV, Reliance’s Big Flix and Times Group’s BigTV. These services are mostly ad-supported and provide scarce English-language content. Hollywood content can be viewied on other ad-supported platforms like YouTube - or illegally. Watching a movie in the cinema costs about the same, or sometimes more, than an HOOQ monthly subscription.
Besides its large market size, India is among the countries with the fastest smartphone growth in Asia. According to IHS data, smartphone penetration in India population grew from 1% in 2010 to 15% in 2015. This has made it one of the favourite destinations for OTT players. Broadband household penetration in India is still relatively low by regional standards at only 6% in 2014. However, HOOQ has addressed the issue by giving flexibility to viewers to select their desired quality based on the available bandwidth.
HOOQ adopts a different strategy compared to US OTT giant Netflix. It targets primarily emerging markets within the region where Singtel operates, to allow it to deploy its existing businesses. Under the Singtel umbrella, there are Bharti Airtel (India), AIS (Thailand), Globe (Philippines) and Telkomsel (Indonesia) – Indonesia is naturally the next country it will consider after India. With Singtel's huge user base, IHS expects HOOQ to soon partner with Bharti Airtel to offer data bundle packages. Bharti Airtel holds the highest market share in India with total subscribers of 226 million in the first quarter of 2015. Partnerships between OTT services and mobile operators to launch content services has become common. Globe is a partner of HOOQ and Singtel's wholly owned Australian mobile operator Optus is a Netflix partner.
Considering the above advantages, HOOQ’s introduction in India will be a great success. It will pose a considerable threat to the existing ad-supported platforms with its highly affordable pricing and promising content library. IHS also expects other players in the region such as iFlix to arrive soon in this lucrative market.