Streaming Platforms in South East Asia Brace for Further Shake-up

GoPlay, the streaming video unit of Indonesian super-app Gojek, has completed a round of independent financing.

The move comes at a time when the  more established South East Asian region streamer Iflix has reportedly taken emergency action at board level to stem its financial problems. At the same time, officials in Thailand are scoping out the feasibility of launching another platform in the South East Asia region, tentatively called Thaiflix.

DealStreetAsia reports that two of iflix’s co-founders have resigned and that distressed asset specialists have instead been drafted on the board of directors. Contacted by Variety, Iflix offered no comment.

In contrast, GoPlay’s successful capital raising brought in Singapore’s Golden Gate Ventures and Chinese investment firm ZWC Partners, according to a GoPlay statement. Other investors in the round included Gojek’s early backer Openspace Ventures, Indonesian media firm Ideosource Entertainment, and family office Redbadge Pacific.

The company did not disclose the value or the size of the issue, though DealStreetAsia has reported it at $15 million. The move is GoPlay’s first fund raising round independent of its parent.

Gojek is one of the largest startup companies in South East Asia. In 10 years, it has expanded from ride hailing in Indonesia to food deliveries and payment systems, with operations in Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, and Philippines.

It launched GoPlay in September last year, with an initial focus on Indonesia. GoPlay is embedded into the Gojek application and sold at an additional $6 per month. The service proposes a mixture of original and acquired content, mostly Asian-made, including the Indonesian remake of “Gossip Girl.”

Indonesia, with its huge population and challenging geography, has become a battleground for multiple digital firms taking advantage of nearly nationwide cellular infrastructure. In video, GoPlay squares off against rivals including: local player Vidio, backed by Indonesian media conglomerate Emtek; Taiwan’s Catchplay; Hong Kong multinational PCCW’s Viu; and Iflix, which operates across five SE Asian territories and has reported Indonesia as its largest market.

Another regional streamer, Hooq was put into voluntary liquidation by its owners in late March. The following month, Iflix cancelled a planned IPO on the Australian Stock Exchange, and announced a round of job cuts.

Both Hooq and Iflix had struggled to change their business models from predominantly western content to primarily Asian programming, and to adapt to the specifics of the region’s consumer habits, which obliged them both to try to shift from a subscription model to predominantly advertising-supported one. While they were doing that, the coronavirus outbreak caused a spike in usage, but a drop in advertising.

Thailand is also seen as fertile ground for streaming growth. A middle-income country with improving digital infrastructure, Thailand is included in the overlapping footprints of Gojek, Grab, streamers Viu and Iflix (and previously Hooq), as well as the first international outreach initiatives by China’s iQIYI and Tencent Video.

The country’s Digital Economy and Society Minister, Puttipong Punnakan last week called for the launch of an international streaming platform based around Thai content.

“If Thailand can assemble some good content, then we can export it in the same way South Korea does. Team Thailand will consist of the private sector as well as the supporting government,” Punnakan said. “Why doesn’t Thailand have a Thai social media or online services platform of our own? We’re always using foreign ones, sending advertising revenue and online shopping revenue overseas.”

Netflix is believed to be by far the largest streamer in the region in terms of subscription revenue, though it does not disclose detailed subscriptions data. YouTube is the dominant ad-supported video platform.