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Video-on-demand service HOOQ launches Rs89 per month subscription plan

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-09-2017 Lata Jha

New Delhi: For those who wish to watch the latest Hollywood movies on the go, there is a new mobile app on the scene: HOOQ. For Rs89 a month, you get access to nearly 1,000 Hollywood films and several thousand hours of American TV programming. And, in an introductory offer, the first Rs89 gets you three months of access.

The Singapore-based video-on-demand streaming service is a joint venture of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. The company has chosen the tagline ‘Home for Hollywood’ in India.

Peter Bithos, chief executive officer of HOOQ, said the company has been developing its India business for a little over a year. “But to be able to offer a premium service in a very crowded market, we wanted to make sure we had a value proposition that is differentiated, could scale millions of customers and is also something we can win at. So as everybody plays their own cards, we are jumping in as the Home for Hollywood,” Bithos said.

So far, HOOQ was a B2B product in India, and its customers were redirected from partner telecommunication services Airtel and Vodafone.

Other than English, HOOQ will host content in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

The fact that India is the only country where about 25 over-the-top (OTT) mobile apps have come up in the past one-and-a-half years ensures that premium digital content is highly commoditized, Bithos said. Sports and local movies are mostly free. The only fast-growing category you can’t watch for free is Hollywood.

What further pushed HOOQ towards the genre was the fact that while American streaming platform Amazon Prime Video has focused on localization through Bollywood acquisitions, arch rival Netflix is the business of originals. While Amazon has a single annual subscription fee of Rs499, Netflix has a basic subscription plan costing Rs500 per month.

The relatively untapped category, for now, remains Hollywood whose box office revenues in India in 2016 grew nearly 10% over 2015, according to the Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2017 prepared by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and KPMG.

“If you look at the box office numbers and television channel ratings, highly localized Hollywood content is growing very fast,” Bithos said. “But a lot of times, that content is not available in the secondary towns or distributed on OTT platforms. What we’ve done over the last year is amass what we think is the best Hollywood catalogue customized for India and localize it in three languages—Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.”

Bithos said HOOQ has partnered with American studios like Lionsgate Films, besides sourcing from Sony and Warner themselves. Current top titles include DC’s superhero film Wonder Woman, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and Christopher Nolan’s war drama Dunkirk.

The library also extends to include television shows like Supergirl, fantasy police procedural comedy drama Lucifer and iconic sitcom The Big Bang Theory, among others.

“We’re not looking at Bollywood but are going local through localization of content,” said Salil Kapoor, managing director, HOOQ India. While the films may have dubbed theatrical versions, HOOQ will dub the TV shows itself, Kapoor added.

“We want to focus on action, science fiction, animal adventure and kids’ content,” Kapoor said.

To be sure, the service that targets the 24-40 age group is not competing with most Indian OTT players.

“The English-speaking population comprises about 25-30 million people in India while the Hindi-speaking group makes up 150 million. So you choose the game you’re in,” said Nachiket Pantvaidya, chief executive officer, ALTBalaji, the video-on-demand platform owned by Balaji Telefilms Ltd, adding that catering to the English market does alienate services from the AVoD (ad-based video-on-demand) game. “But it all depends on which box you tick and if you can fulfil the needs of consumers in that segment.”

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