Even as Netflix readies itself to launch the new interface next month, iFlix, the Netflix-like South Asian video streaming service is preparing to battle piracy. They have already had a soft debut in the Philippines and plan to roll-out their services to other South Asian countries soon. By the end of this year, they plan to release in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Hollywood movies have started with worldwide releases on the same day, but television shows remain a few seasons behind in most South Asian countries, that is if they were even airing in that country. It was not because of the lack of interest either. Till now, if South Asian audiences wanted to watch any foreign television show, be it American, British or Australian, they had to stream it illegally or download the pirated versions via Torrent. If the person had a relative abroad, then they could use the dubious screen sharing method, to catch the latest episodes. If the show’s rights had been bought by a national channel, then people would be tuning in to watch the 10th season of Grey’s Anatomy on Star World in Asia while the 11th season would be coming to an end in the U.S. The channel had to telecast all episodes back-to-back to catch up with the show’s actual season, or people would be unable to go online for fear of spoilers.
What is iFlix?
iFlix has been in the pipeline since last year, but was officially announced in March when it got $30 million during its pre-launch funding phase. It is a partnership between the Malaysian Catcha Group and U.S.-based Evolution Media Capital. Its selling point, according to Catcha Group’s CEO, is the fact that they put mobility first. Their main aim is not the Internet TV business model like Netflix because in South Asia, most people skip through computers and laptops to head for smartphones.
iFlix claims to offer 10,000 hours of viewing times on its launch. In the second phase of their launch, iFlix is planning to launch in South and Central Asia too. Much like the streaming services here, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, the monthly subscription rate is expected to be low, some websites state $3 a month, and subscribers can use five devices per account. They also have the option to download the shows and play them later and stream the same show on two devices simultaneously.
iFlix is a blessing in disguise for those people who are planning to travel to that part of the world and expatriates too. On May 12, iFlix announced that it has signed deals with BBC, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox for their popular shows. This means that most new- age American and British shows like Sons of Anarchy, Glee, Arrow, Orphan Black, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Modern Family, to name a few are already available on the site. Staple favorites like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who and Sherlock are also ready to stream. Movies like Superman Returns, Batman Begins, Harry Potter, Final Destination, Kung Fu Panda and Green Lantern, are among the many English language movies present. iFlix CEO, Mark Britt, in the official press release said that he was thrilled to be partnering with the channels as they would now be able to show the best selection of television series and movies to their customers.
iFlix is primarily for the South Asian audience, so it will also offer multi-cultural content from Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and Bollywood. iFlix is great news for viewers who watch content from other countries in South Asia, without resorting to piracy and without having to wait for Netflix to get there. Much like Netflix and Hulu, iFlix will also be producing original content later on.
Netflix has finally released in the Asia-Pacific region when it entered Australia and New Zealand this year. It will be in Japan by this fall, but there have been no plans to expand to other countries. The competition is mostly from Singapore Telecommunication Limited’s Hooq, which is a joint venture startup with Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Television. It has still not released yet, but will begin with a catalog of 10,000 plus movies and shows and is priced at $4.46 for 30-day access. The service has already launched in the Philippines as of February.
From video games to movies, piracy is a big problem in South Asia. Catcha Group CEO, Patrick Grove told Tech In Asia that more than 90 percent ASEAN households consume pirated content. Piracy is also a problem in countries with heavily regulated censorship laws. The South Asian Netflix, iFlix, on entering the South Asian market, might slow down piracy because of its low pricing and content. They say that they will not be censoring content internally, but would be careful about movie titles. The iFlix interface is easy to use and most important, it is legal and safe. Users will not have to worry about spamware and malware, but will also get their content for the price of a pirated DVD.
Opinion By Anugya Chitransh
iFlix: Media Room
TechCrunch: iFlix, A Netflix Clone For Southeast Asia, Scoops Up $30M In Pre-Launch Funding
Tech In Asia: With iFlix, Patrick Grove wants to bring the best of Hollywood to Southeast Asia
Photo Courtesy of Matt Perreault’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License