Asian video-streaming platform Hooq is to be hosted on the Grab tech and services app in Southeast Asia, following a deal between the two companies. The deal is designed to accelerate the growth of both companies beyond their core businesses.
Grab was established in 2012 as a ride-hailing service in Singapore. In early 2018, Grab bought Uber’s businesses in Southeast Asia, and has since expanded into activities stretching from food delivery to payment services. Currently, it operates in eight countries and has over 130 million downloads.
Like a handful of other tech companies in Asia, Grab now styles itself as a “super-app” or ecosystem, a services platform that keeps users engaged throughout their daily lives. “Adding video was an obvious next step,” Danny Koik, Grab’s head of regional partnerships told Variety. “We know that people want more services.”
The deal is a revenue-sharing agreement which operates on two levels in the four Southeast Asian territories where the two companies’ operations overlap: Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. (Hooq, which is backed by Singtel, Warnermedia and Sony, also operates in India.)
All of Hooq’s advertising-supported (AVoD) content will be available through a widget on the Grab app’s home page. Grab users will also be offered a three-month trial of Hooq’s premium VoD services and 17 pay-TV channels. After a user’s trial has been completed, they will be able to sign up for 1-day, 7-day, or 30-day subscriptions, and see billing handled through the Grab Pay mobile wallet.
“Both companies have been very flexible in defining the business model,” Hooq founder Peter Bithos said. “We have also had to work with all our content partners to get this off the ground. This is a brand-new category of rights that nobody has operated before.”
The companies describe the deal as a “hockey-stick moment for both digital services and online video in (the Southeast Asia) region.” That is a reference to the non-linear growth prospects that are presented to innovative businesses in a region with a population the same size as Europe’s. Digital services are now overcoming many of the region’s geophysical barriers and socioeconomic challenges such as lack of bank accounts or credit cards. The market for subscription video in Southeast Asia is forecast to grow from $60 million in 2017 to $390 million, according to Dataxis.
“We have spent four years investing in technology, content and understanding to build the leading OTT service in Southeast Asia. Now is the time to move to another level,” Bithos said. Speaking to Variety, Bithos also dropped heavy hints that Hooq is interested in expanding into Vietnam and Malaysia, two other fast-growing and populous countries where Grab is already present. But he said there is “nothing material” to report.
“The Hooq partnership forms a cornerstone of Grab’s online media strategy, and will add to our strategy of becoming the everyday super-app in the region, by making our platform altogether more engaging,” said Koik. However, he did not rule out other moves into media and entertainment, such as co-production, “if the right opportunity comes along.”
Many of East Asia’s tech companies are engaged in a race to expand into ecosystems or super-apps. And with online video as one of the stickiest media formats – about 80% of all Southeast Asians say they watch online video every day – many have now expanded into multiple forms of entertainment. Examples include China’s Tencent, Alibaba, iQIYI and Meituan Dianping, Korea’s Kakao, Japan’s Line (the dominant messaging service in Thailand), and Indonesia’s Go-Jek.