Zulfiqar Khan, managing director, HOOQ India.
Zulfiqar Khan, managing director, HOOQ India.

HOOQ to focus on big-ticket American TV shows

HOOQ , a joint venture of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros and Singapore Telecommunications, launched its commercial operations in the country last September

New Delhi: Singapore-based video-on-demand streaming service HOOQ will focus on the exclusive release of the latest seasons of big-ticket American shows simultaneously with their global launch to drive audiences in India.

The company, a joint venture of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros and Singapore Telecommunications, launched its commercial operations in the country last September, with the tagline ‘Home for Hollywood’ in India.

From September, new seasons of top American offerings like romantic comedy The Big Bang Theory, superhero TV series Arrow and Flash, crime drama The Oath, period sitcom The Goldbergs and action adventure S.W.A.T will be available on the same day as their overseas release only on HOOQ, as far as the India market is concerned. These will be broadcast on other platforms outside the country though.

“Till about December, every week we will have one new series episode at the same time as the global release so we’ve got our content arsenal in place now," said Zulfiqar Khan, managing director, HOOQ India. “There is so much content around but people are still searching for good stuff and trying to figure out what they want to watch."

HOOQ will continue to aggregate a movie library, Khan said, from investors like Sony and Warner Bros and other partners like Lionsgate Films, Endemol Shine and the BBC Group. The platform already has offerings like the fantasy adventure trilogy The Lord of the Rings and science fiction flick Interstellar, but the big focus, going forward, will be TV series.

Also exclusive deals, because a lot of content in India is available on multiple platforms so there isn’t much sanctity to it. Both movies and TV shows on HOOQ are subtitled as of now and the platform is also looking at dubbing in local Indian languages over time.

“It’s a consumer habit, people want to get entertained and we’ve seen the numbers for binge-watching," Khan said. “About 70% of the audience wants to have continuity (in viewing) from a day-to-day perspective, scenes become part of your life and it gives us a longer window to entertain audiences."

HOOQ will continue its 89 monthly plan along with facilitating ease of payment by clubbing with partners like Airtel, Vodafone and ACT Fibernet. However, it is not jumping on to the bandwagon by making digital originals anytime soon, Khan said. Its differentiation, it believes, lies in its American offerings.

“The market for only Hollywood content in India is quite limited," said Abneesh Roy, analyst with Edelweiss Securities pointing to the fact that both American services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and local broadcaster-led platforms like ZEE5 are looking at original programming aggressively. “The customer doesn’t have too much space and ultimately only three to four apps will survive."

However, skeptics do not faze HOOQ.

“There is so much space and diversity in India. The entire point is how you can make it easy for the consumer," Khan said.