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Malaysia's iflix bags $133mn in new funding

Video streaming operator gets Hearst on board to boost local content

KUALA LUMPUR -- Video-on-demand provider iflix has secured $133 million in a fundraising campaign, bringing the total funds raised in the current fiscal year ending Dec. 31 to over $220 million, the company said on Monday.

It attracted Hearst, the U.S. media group with interests in cable TV networks including A&E, History and ESPN. Other new investors include EDBI, the investment arm of Singapore's Economic Development Board and clients of DBS private bank.

These investors join existing shareholders Evolution Media, Sky, Catcha Group, Liberty Global, Jungle Ventures and PLDT, which also topped up their investments.

Proceeds from the latest round will be used to boost local content, as iflix aims to capture a wider viewership in a market in which local providers as well as bigger players such as Netflix are competing.

The two-year-old operator headquartered in Kuala Lumpur has expanded from four markets to 19 across Asia, the Middle East and Africa in the past one year, with mobile customers viewing for an average of 2.5 hours per session.

Non-listed iflix said revenue grew 230% year on year during the period as it increased its localization initiatives, producing 26,000 hours of subtitles in nine languages.

The new investors could contribute to growth through their "expertise and knowledge," said iflix co-founder and group CEO Mark Britt in a press release.

The announcement came as Netflix is beefing up its local content in emerging markets. It recently added two original series from India -- "Selection Day," a story about cricket and corruption, and "Again," a detective title.

Netflix, which has 104 million members in over 190 countries, is also buying Malay and Chinese content for international broadcast from Media Prima, a Malaysian media group, The Edge daily news site reported on Monday.

Malaysia's pay-TV operator Astro Malaysia Holdings is also aggressively promoting premium content to local and regional audiences. Rohana Rozhan, Astro's CEO, told a forum organized by the Nikkei Asian Review last Thursday that the group aims to digitize at least 75% of its products by this year.

Tribe, Astro's internet TV service currently available in Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, has been installed by over 2 million viewers in just over a year.

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