Billionaire Richard Li’s streaming enterprise is on a roll, mulling a possible preliminary public providing after its platform Viu beat Netflix Inc. in subscribers in considered one of Asia’s best markets.
Viu is now Southeast Asia’s second largest streaming service by paid subscribers, trailing solely Disney Plus, in accordance with analysis agency Media Companions Asia. Its success has pushed the over-the-top media enterprise of Li’s conglomerate PCCW Ltd. to publish a income soar of 29% within the first half of this 12 months, narrowing losses by 75%.
The Hong Kong-based enterprise, which additionally features a smaller music streaming platform, is anticipated to interrupt whilst early because the second half, mentioned PCCW Managing Director BG Srinivas final week. The group will contemplate introducing strategic companions or perhaps a itemizing for the division, he mentioned in an August 6 earnings name.
The rise of Viu in Southeast Asia has stood out because the streaming house worldwide turns into largely carved up by giants from Walt Disney Co and Netflix to China’s Baidu Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd. The Hong Kong-based platform obtained to the quick rising middle-class inhabitants earlier than larger rivals partially by recognizing tendencies extra rapidly — just like the urge for food for Korean dramas throughout the a number of languages used within the area and demand for a free subscription tier — but it surely stays to be seen if it could possibly dangle onto the early lead.
“Our intention is to proceed to be frontrunners within the digital leisure house in Asia,” Viu CEO Janice Lee advised Bloomberg. “We wish to create a service in Asia for Asia, however we additionally perceive Asia just isn’t one area.”
Its rivals have deeper pockets, a longtime observe document of making unique content material and are ramping up their give attention to Southeast Asia as progress slows in residence markets just like the US Netflix spent virtually $2 billion between 2018 and 2020 on creating and licensing exhibits in Asia, with Southeast Asia a key market.
In November, Disney appointed Ahmad Izham Omar, former chief government officer of Malaysia’s largest manufacturing firm Primeworks Studios, to steer its efforts in Southeast Asia.
“The important thing query is how Viu can scale up much more,” mentioned Vivek Couto, government director of Media Companions Asia, including that the agency lacks its personal franchises, particularly in Korean content material, in contrast with how Netflix is establishing studios and inking manufacturing companions within the East Asian nation. Viu is at a crucial level in its journey because it strikes to broaden its person base and compete in content material, he mentioned.
China’s streaming companies are coming into the fray too: Baidu’s iQiyi Inc scouted Kuek Yu-Chuang, Netflix’s primary liaison to governments in Southeast Asia in June final 12 months, and a few weeks later, Tencent acquired Malaysia-based streaming platform iFlix Ltd, ramping up efforts to broaden available in the market.
Trying forward, Viu is attempting to consolidate its early positive aspects by pivoting to creating extra unique content material, asserting its first 4 Korean drama originals earlier this 12 months. It has produced a mean of over 40 unique exhibits yearly since 2016, in accordance with the corporate. Lee declined to reveal its finances for unique content material.
Betting on progress alternatives in Southeast Asia and technology-driven sectors has been a key focus for Richard Li — the youthful son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing. The scion, 54, is increasing his insurance coverage companies within the area, in addition to investing in e-payment and digital financing. He is additionally teamed up with billionaire Peter Thiel to determine blank-check companies with a spotlight to accumulate new financial system startups available in the market.
Viu’s success, although it contributes solely a small proportion of PCCW’s general income, has cemented Li’s picture as a media and expertise entrepreneur, which is uncommon amongst Hong Kong’s tycoons whose companies primarily function in conventional sectors like actual property, ports, utilities and retail.
Considered one of Viu’s early coups was to introduce a hybrid mannequin providing some content material free of charge and a few solely accessible to its paying subscribers, at a time when different platforms had been simply courting the latter.
Given the decrease spending energy and rampant piracy within the area, free content material lured in hordes of customers and created an promoting income stream for Viu, one which surged 54% within the first half. Subscription income jumped 40%. General, Viu’s income grew 47% to $62 million within the first half of the 12 months.
Current entrants iQiyi and Tencent’s WeTV have each adopted this tiered mannequin.
Viu was additionally among the many first main platforms to companion with native wi-fi operators and supply its service over cellphones, with plans costing as little as $2 a month. Netflix in 2019 adopted the same system, introducing under-$5-a-month mobile-only plans in a number of Asian nations.
Nonetheless, the platform, which operates in 16 markets together with the Center East and South Africa, will discover it an uphill problem to copy its success in Southeast Asia elsewhere.
Different main Asian markets like China and India are dominated by native incumbents; Viu determined to exit India in 2019 after greater than three years of operations as a result of it lacked the money to problem larger rivals, Financial Instances reported.
Few regional streaming platforms have been in a position to sustain with American and Chinese language heavyweights. Hooq, backed by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, filed for liquidation and discontinued service final 12 months. IFlix was acquired by Tencent after promoting income took successful throughout the pandemic.
Viu is hoping to proceed defying expectations.
“We’ve been available in the market with a number of gamers for a time period now,” mentioned Lee. “We have seen that now we have continued to ship very sturdy progress.”
(Aside from the headline, this story has not been edited by IHNS workers and is printed from a syndicated feed.)