Asian Netflix challenger HOOQ raises $25M more from Singtel, Sony and Warner

HOOQ, a Netflix challenger in Southeast Asia, has raised $25 million in capital from existing investors Singtel, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers.

The streaming service was founded two years ago by the trio, with Singtel taking a majority holding. News of the new funding was quietly announced via a stock exchange filing from Singtel, which disclosed it had invested an additional SG$23.7 million, or approximately US$15.5 million, with Sony and Warner adding the remainder. The companies have retained the same shareholding following the deal, with Singtel owning 65 percent, and Sony and Warner taking 17.5 percent each.

The filing also revealed that HOOQ had initially raised $70 million, a figure that had not previously been made public. This round takes it to $95 million to date.

HOOQ CEO Peter Bithos told TechCrunch the capital increase was “a drawdown of originally committed amount,” but the company is preparing to welcome outside investors for the first time.

“Later this year, we’ll evaluate funding options beyond our first round,” he added.

HOOQ is focused on Southeast Asia. The service first went live in Indonesia, Philippines, India and Thailand in 2015 before adding Singapore, its home market, last year.

HOOQ and fellow Southeast Asia-based rival iFlix initially had the jump on Netflix, which did not expand its service globally until January 2016. Aside from content focused on local markets, the two services held a number of advantages over Netflix, since it lacked carrier billing and download options — both of which are important in emerging markets — until the last few months.

Suddenly, though, HOOQ’s edge has been whittled down. To make matters worse, Amazon is now an international challenger and, of the local players, iFlix seems to have sped ahead. While HOOQ has stayed pretty quiet since its launch, iFlix has claimed to have over one million registered and it landed a strategic $45 million investment from British broadcasting giant SkyiFlix raised an initial $30 million before it launched in 2015, and it includes Malaysia’s Catcha Group, Philippines-based telecom firm PLDT and Evolution Media Capital among its backers.

But the battleground isn’t just Asia. iFlix has grander plans to expand beyond the continent — as evidenced by ambitious efforts to raise $150 million in fresh capital — but HOOQ has said nothing of its future ambitions.