Platform also keen to begin co-producing with partners in Indonesia and the Philippines

Chief content officer Jennifer Batty
Territory reach India; Indonesia; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand
Content breakdown 95% acquisitions; 5% originals
2018 Originals On The Job; Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts

Southeast Asian SVoD service Hooq is ramping up its original content strategy with an Amazon-style pilot programme for local talent alongside international co-productions with telco partners.

The joint venture between Singaporean telco Singtel, Warner Brothers and Sony Pictures Television launched in 2015 and is complementing its US studio output deals with local content sourced through its year-old Hooq Filmmakers Guild.

The programme accepts entries from aspiring directors and screenwriters across its territories. Of the 500 entries received last year, six projects were given development money to be expanded into TV pilots that were recently launched on the platform. One will be developed into a full series.

Hooq chief content officer Jennifer Batty hints that the platform could expand more of the initiative’s pilots into series: “Local content is incredibly important. We don’t only want Hollywood content – we want to appeal to the masses.”

Hooq is also in discussions with Modern Times Group-backed drama commissioning club Atrium TV, whose network of regional SVoDs and telcos jointly greenlight Game Of Thrones-scale dramas to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

“If one of [the Atrium partners] has a suitable project, we would definitely join, regardless of whether it comes from Europe or Canada,” says Batty, a former RTL and Modern Times Group exec.

Co-pro plans

Batty says the platform is also keen to begin co-producing with telco partners in territories such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

Hooq works closely with telcos to provide affordable data packages for its users. Its customers predominantly consume Hooq content via mobile, but live in countries where only a fraction of the population have credit cards.

“Our users have had mobile phones for years and they are used to paying for them, so that is why we have strong relationships with telcos,” explains Batty. “They offer different payment systems that can make Hooq as accessible as possible.”

Hooq has a population reach of 1.7 billion across its combined footprint, though its “strongest” territories are Indonesia and Singapore. In India, it is focused solely on acquisitions and is known as “the home of Hollywood”, says Batty.

“Between Hotstar and Amazon, the local content in India is incredible. After we launched, we found it was our Hollywood content that was driving Indian users to Hooq, so we decided to laser our focus.”

A monthly subscription costs about $3 (£2) – half the price of Netflix – but Batty points out that production costs are much lower in Southeast Asia. “It does not mean, however, that the production values are lower,” she says.

“There is exciting talent in Asia and these programmes can stand up next to anything else.”

The SVoD service’s first original was Indonesian feature film Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts, which was showcased at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It is now adapting 2013 Filipino feature film On The Job as a six-part series.

“A big part of our philosophy is working with known brands in our territories,” says Batty, who is keen to greenlight series with built-in fanbases.

“We are looking for what can help us find success, so we are casting actors who are known for their work in theatrical films.”

Batty, who will be meeting international producers at Mip TV, is looking for “edgy content” that can push the boundaries “a bit more than some of the broadcasters in our territories.”

“We can have things that are a bit more risqué, but they do need to be careful of cultural sensitivities.”

The exec is open to a wide array of scripted sub-genres, describing feature film Marlina is an “art-house spaghetti Western”. “That was not the norm, but it has done really well,” she adds.

Hooq will look to strike talent partnerships with producers and writers in the region.

“We want to have long-term partners,” says Batty, noting that discussions with major talent are under way. “It is a very exciting time in Southeast Asia – the opportunities are incredible.

There is double-digit percentage growth among people who own smartphones, internet penetration is growing and technology is improving.”