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Fox Networks Group Launches Plus-Sized Streaming App in Asia

Variety logo Variety 4/25/2017 Patrick Frater
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Aiming to boost its share in a fast-growing entertainment market, Fox Networks Group (FNG) has launched a new plus-sized streaming app in Asia that combines the group’s linear channels with video-on-demand service for films, documentaries, TV series and live sports.

Designed from scratch, the Fox+ app allows users to watch shows at the same time as they are shown on FNG’s linear channels. Full seasons will be available, along with all previous seasons of back catalog. And as is de rigueur these days, the service is portable and works across multiple screens.

The app made its Asian debut in the Philippines on April 9. It is expected to launch next in small but wealthy, demanding and digitally savvy Singapore.

“Existing services may have the back shows, but not the new ones. Fox+ is about marrying the two together,” FNG’s Asia president Zubin Gandevia told Variety. He said that episodes will play at the same time as their debuts in the U.S., or sometimes even a few hours prior, given the time difference between Asia and North America.

Gandevia said Fox was especially equipped to offer such an app “because we own a studio and because we are a big rights buyer.” FNG boasts more than 150 feeds across 10 countries and 14 languages, and employs 1,200 staff in the region.

To deliver on the app, FNG has had to change the terms of its acquisitions deals, including those for films licensed from other studios for its Fox Movies channel, such as the company’s agreement with Disney’s Marvel Studios. In order to play titles in the first window after theatrical release, ahead of terrestrial, cable and other streaming platforms, it needs all-rights, first position and exclusivity. That applies to Chinese and Indian film titles as well as English-language content and sports.

The need to control more rights has hastened the company’s drive into Asian production – a strategy that meshes with the current trend toward localization and differentiation. Last month, FNG announced its first premium original series, Hong Kong-set financial thriller “Trading Floor,” and crime thriller “Stained.”

In contrast to Netflix, which sells at a nearly uniform price worldwide, Fox+ will be priced differently from territory to territory in Asia, a region whose countries differ vastly in wealth, development and pay-TV penetration. The differential pricing could keep the cost to customers low enough to discourage piracy, but the geo-blocking would crimp subscribers’ ability to take Fox+ with them as they travel across borders.

Consumers can subscribe to Fox+ as a standalone service (like competing OTT streaming services), but receive a better deal if the app is taken up as an add-on to a household’s existing Fox pay-TV subscription.

Gandevia said FNG chose Philippines as its first market for Fox+ “because there is a high degree of consumer loyalty, because it is a Hollywood-centric market, and we have good phone company partners,” including the Cignal, PLDT and Smart platforms. No date has been set yet for the Singapore debut or subsequent rollouts.

“We are trying to strengthen the ecosystem, building value, not destroying it. We are being accretive, building on an amazing ecosystem that we have built over many years,” Gandevia said.

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