Update (March 3) Viu has announced its second freemium service, for India, launching today. A premium tier, offering ad-free viewing and some paid-for only shows, costs Rs99 (US$1.50) a month.
The Indian service also features Viu's first original content, a 10-episode series co-created with Fluence, a digital media startup from private equity firm CA Media.
Hong Kong telco PCCW has shifted its international OTT video drive up a gear, unveiling the first paywall for Viu, its freemium play marketed around day-and-date Asian entertainment.
The app’s local Malaysian service, which launched last week, includes a premium and a basic tier, firming up Viu’s growth strategy around a dual revenue stream which can be adapted for different markets.
Malaysia is the third territory in an ongoing rollout for Viu, after launching ad-supported services in Hong Kong late last year and in Singapore in January.
Paid options for these markets are also in the works.
Other Asian video start-ups such as Hooq and Iflix are focusing on SVOD models, although the markets for both ad-supported and subscription-based video are at an early stage of development across much of the region.
In Malaysia, Viu’s subs will get to choose between an ad-free tier with extra features, including access to select day-and-date shows from overseas, and an ad-based service offering a smaller selection of premium content.
The split between the two will be reviewed over time.
Pricing, at RM10 (US$2.40) a month, is on a par with Iflix which also operates in Malaysia, mainly with a mix of Asian and Hollywood content at present.
Viu is currently available on a month’s free trial, although broadband customers for TM, Malaysia’s largest ISP, will get three months’ free viewing from mid-March.
TM is also providing its broadband subs with a free year of Iflix, following a deal struck at the end of the last year.
A SIBLING SERVICE
At the same time, Malaysia has become the first market where Viu will co-exist with Vuclip, a mobile video company PCCW bought last year, opening up possible synergies in content and distribution.
The two products are designed for different audiences, with Vuclip targeting first-time mobile data users, mainly with short-form content in emerging markets, via a browser-based service.
Viu, on the other hand, is tailored for audiences more comfortable with online video.
For its first wave of growth, it is subtitling popular shows from Korea and Taiwan within 8 to 24 hours of their original telecast, in addition to offering an array of library programming. Rights vary by market.
Nonetheless, Viu’s expansion plans are taking it into more mobile-oriented growth markets, where Vuclip has already set up shop.
India and Indonesia, for example, should be next.
“While the demographics may be different, there are synergies we want to leverage and exploit across the two businesses,” Vuclip’s CEO, Nickhil Jakatdar, tells Media Business Asia.
“That’s the plan. Malaysia is the first market where we’ve done that but other markets will be coming down the pipe fairly soon.”
Vuclip currently serves around nine million subs each quarter via telco partners across nine markets in Africa and Asia, after making its debut in 2008.
The service, which also helped orchestrate Viu’s launch in Malaysia, has several local partnerships there that could be useful for Viu.
These include free-to-air major Media Prima on the content side, as well as the country’s three biggest mobile networks, Celcom, Digi and Maxis, for distribution.
The next step for Viu will be building out its portfolio of Malaysian long-form content, as Vuclip’s deals tend to focus on shorter snippets, while expanding its reach via a marketing push and more tie-ups in billing and distribution.
“I feel we are well equipped,” Jakatdar says. “It’s not going to be easy but we are ready for a good fight to win this market.”