SVOD startup Iflix, now present in four markets in Southeast Asia, is embarking on a new phase of development after creating a new senior role – head of Asia, filled this week by media and telecoms veteran David Goldstein.
Goldstein first joined Iflix in an advisory role at the end of last year, after working with media and telecoms heavyweights such as Axiata in Malaysia and Emtek Group in Indonesia.
The appointment gives Iflix more leeway to sustain its geographic expansion into new regions such as the Middle East and Africa, while seeking out additional ways to attract customers after initial momentum from subsidized deals with local telcos.
The group bulked up its library this month via an output deal with NBCU, including 20 first-run TV shows. More deals with other US studios could follow, giving Iflix more room to maneuver as English drama struggles for growth in pay-TV.
At the same time, the SVOD service will also be looking for more domestic fare, especially in markets with a vibrant independent production sector such as Indonesia and Thailand.
The operational role also shows Iflix placing greater emphasis on monetization and yield within its established markets, after focusing much of its energies driving awareness and trial so far.
The company launched its first services, in Malaysia and the Philippines, just over a year ago, before going live in Thailand last September and, most recently, in Indonesia earlier this month.
Rollouts in Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in South Asia, are in the pipeline.
Goldstein will manage the operations in Asia as well as the telco relationships that form the bedrock of Iflix’s Asian customer base.
These tie-ups will remain core to Iflix, even as new payment channels – yet to gain mass adoption in much of Southeast Asia – come on stream.
“I think forever we will have partnerships with telcos, in which our services are bundled together with their connectivity service at a single price to the customer,” Goldstein tells Media Business Asia.
“We have no intention of that coming to an end,” he adds.
“Over time, there will be growth in customers opting in and paying for Iflix separately, but it’s a new concept," he continues.
"You just have to get people used to this new way of consuming content, and we have to ensure our product is competitive, even with piracy.”
As well as keeping end-customers happy, a key part of Goldstein’s role will be serving telco requirements, in areas such as managing data traffic for example, as video streaming takes up more bandwidth.
Iflix has now joined with all the telecoms majors in Malaysia (Telekom Malaysia, Digi, Cellcom and Maxis), in deals spanning fixed line and mobile networks, while supplying its service to premium customers on PLDT Smart in the Philippines, TrueMove in Thailand and on both Telkom Indonesia and Indosat Ooredoo in Indonesia.
The partnerships are key for establishing SVOD, and Iflix in particular, as another way to watch TV shows and movies, in markets where non-linear consumption today is heavily geared towards free or pirated channels.
At the same time, Iflix is looking to put more people on the ground to ramp up its localization efforts after raising US$50 million in March from its biggest funding round yet, led by European pay-TV major Sky.
Other investors include: Malaysia’s Catcha Group, the founding company; Evolution Media Capital, an investment and advisory business affiliated with Creative Artists Agency; Philippine telco partner PLDT; US studio MGM; and, as part of the round with Sky, Indonesian broadcaster Emtek.
The willingness to invest in localization is a key differentiator for Iflix, Goldstein suggests, steering its expansion into under-served markets. India for example, with plenty of ambitious local players, is off the cards for now.
“The very important thing for us is, after we get into market, we want to localize as much as possible, and get as much local content and be known as that SVOD provider that has the great local content,” Goldstein says.
“That will stick with users – if we can grab that space now – that we’re localized, that we’re integrated with telcos, that payment is easy, that we have the credibility of these huge telcos, that we’re not just a small startup.”