Warner Bros., Sony to Launch Streaming Video Service in SE Asia

Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Television are teaming up with Singapore’s Singtel to launch a streaming video service in South East Asia.

The companies have formed HOOQ to offer more than 10,000 Hollywood films and TV shows, as well as local-language content via streams or downloads on a variety of platforms.

The joint venture, designed to be an over-the-top service, to bypass traditional cable or satellite services, is based in Singapore.

Peter Bithos, the former chief operating officer of Globe Telecom, in the Philippines, been named CEO of HOOQ.

“We are starting this venture to change the way people across Asia view entertainment,” Bithos said. “Today, across developing markets, there is limited access to quality entertainment, streamed directly to the screen of one’s choice. It’s either illegal, high cost or difficult to get. We aim to fix that.”

HOOQ will roll out across Singtel’s network in Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Thailand during the first quarter and will handle billing and other technical duties. Including minority stakes in other companies in the Asia-Pacific region, Singtel claims half a billion mobile customers.

“Our initial focus will be to launch HOOQ in the emerging markets such as Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Thailand,” a Singtel spokesman told Variety. Australia and Singapore, where the company has 100% ownership of mobile companies Singtel and Optus, will not be covered. “Singapore and Australia are developed markets with existing content ecosystems.”

“HOOQ is an important part of Singtel’s digital strategy,” said Jonathan Auerbach, CEO, Singtel Group Digital Life. “We have unique assets that give us a right to play in this space, and with our partnership with Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. Entertainment, we will achieve our vision to be the largest OTT video service in the region.”

According to Auerbach, Singtel had been looking for an opportunity to launch an OTT service as improved data networks have increased the demand for video on digital platforms.

“This is a more than S$1 billion (US$788 million) opportunity in our markets,” he said. “Video transmission requires significant internet bandwidth, which greatly affects customer experience. With HOOQ, we are bringing together key elements of technology, service and content to deliver the full internet experience to customers.”

The films HOOQ will offer will include the “Spider-Man” and “Harry Potter” franchises, “Friends” and “Gossip Girl,” as well as Indian, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and Japanese movies and TV series.

The spokesman declined to reveal local content suppliers. “We are working with local studios and will announce when HOOQ is launched at the respective countries,” he said.

“Consumers expect premium entertainment content to be available to them at their convenience and as a result, over the top delivery has become an important part of our business,” said George Chien, executive VP, networks, Asia-Pacific, Sony Pictures Television. “Through this partnership, we hope to create a service to meet that demand as it grows in Asia.”

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