Quickplay Media (where I work) and SingTel just issued their press releases announcing the release of HOOQ, one of the largest joint ventures in the entertainment industry in history, to the app store – and I’m so proud to have been a part of it! Both Quickplay and SingTel have issued press releases, so now I can finally talk about this insanely audacious project that I was part of last summer.
As described in the title of the Quickplay release, HOOQ is “A joint venture between SingTel, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. Entertainment – For Over-The-Top video service across Asia”. This was a MASSIVE deal between some of the biggest Hollywood distribution companies and one of Asia’s largest telecom providers. Their goal, as described in the SingTel release, is to “deliver both Hollywood blockbusters and television series, as well as popular local movies and programmes to customers anytime, anywhere by enabling them to stream and download their favourite shows on their device or platform of choice.”
Note the word “download” in there. When I told people what I was working on last summer (I’m working with AT&T on their U-verse app update now) almost everybody used the phrase “Asian Netflix” as they tried to wrap their heads around it. And last I checked, Netflix had an extremely weak foothold in Asia, so I suppose that kind of assumption makes it easier to understand the why of a joint venture like this. But this was bigger than just being another Netflix clone. And not just big in the sense that it’s launching with 10,000 movies and TV shows (Netflix launched its streaming service with only about 1,000 titles). Not only is HOOQ poised to offer more Hollywood hits and TV shows earlier than Netflix, but it also provides a host of unique features that other streaming services haven’t quite figured out how to do well yet. The ability to download content for offline viewing (courtesy of Microsoft’s PlayReady security and QuickPlays newly revamped Virtual Set-Top Box libraries) is a good example of this. That’s a great feature on it’s own, but being able to have new episodes of TV Shows from premium networks automatically download to your device the moment they are available makes it even better.
What I’m extremely excited to see, however, is how this kind of service affects the rampant bootlegging and media piracy in Asia. Yes, the western world sees a lot of illegal sharing of movies and TV shows, but selling bootlegged copies of Hollywood blockbusters is believed to be a multimillion dollar industry in the Asian markets. And part of the problem, or so it is thought, is that Hollywood media content is hard to acquire legally in the East at the same time it becomes available in the West. And when it does, it is certainly not very affordable. So by providing a service which does not necessarily have to rely on credit cards (which are not nearly as abundant in their target market) while providing access to content that would otherwise take months or years to show up in a legal, non-bootlegged form, SingTel and it’s Hollywood partners are hoping to curb the massive theft of their intellectual property.
I dont usually gush about my work projects on this blog, but I spent a log of late nights and a LOT of 80 hour weeks last summer getting the iOS app up and running, so it feels pretty good to see it finally hit the app store – even if it is only available in Singapore right now 🙂