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HOOQ enters Indonesia's busy online video market

HOOQ's video streaming app is tailored to the smartphone, which are more commonly used than personal computers in Asia's emerging markets.

JAKARTA -- Singapore-based HOOQ launched its video streaming service in Indonesia on Thursday, joining a string of media companies tapping into the country's fast-growing population of Internet users.

     HOOQ is a joint venture between Singapore Telecommunications, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. Through its app, it streams 35,000 hours of movies and television programs, which it claims is the largest content library in Asia. In addition to Hollywood blockbusters, the company offers more than 1,200 Indonesian movies through partnerships with local media companies, such as television network operator Media Nusantara Citra. Some movies in English have Indonesian language subtitles.

     The service costs 49,500 rupiah ($4) a month, about half the cost of rival Netflix's cheapest plan. "We have brought the best of Hollywood and local Indonesian content together, and package that in the price of a movie ticket," HOOQ Chief Executive Peter Bithos said in an interview. He added that users without credit cards will be able to pay for the service using prepaid credit on their mobile phones.

     HOOQ was launched in 2015 and was rolled out in the Philippines, Thailand and India before arriving in Indonesia. Bithos said that after entering the Singapore market later in 2016, the company will focus on growing its service in these five countries. He said the service already has "millions of users" but declined to give specific figures.

     In Asia, where the Internet population is rising rapidly, competition among online video streaming services is intensifying. U.S.-based Netflix in January expanded its service into 130 countries including India and Indonesia. Malaysia's cable TV provider Astro Malaysia Holdings partnered with Indonesia's mobile operator XL Axiata to roll out its streaming video service. Malaysia's iFlix, backed by Philippine Long Distance Telephone, is also eyeing the Indonesian market.

     "You have competition with cable and other providers, with substitute services such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon," said Mitchell Kim, an analyst at Maybank Kim Eng Research. "Those guys are much better at it because they know how their customers use their services."

     The roll-outs have not all gone smoothly, however. State-owned Telekomunikasi Indonesia has been blocking Netflix's service, claiming that it contains pornographic and violent content, as well as inadequate customer support.

     HOOQ said it meets the Indonesian government's demand of having a "local presence" because it employs a team of local engineers and sells Indonesian content.

     HOOQ's shareholder SingTel is also a shareholder of Telkomsel, a subsidiary of Telekomunikasi Indonesia.

Nikkei staff writer Tani Mayuko in Singapore contributed to this story

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