Byravee Iyer
Aug 23, 2016

Taiwanese streaming company takes on Netflix

Four-month-old on-demand service outlines ambitious plans for Southeast Asia.

L-R: Timothy Chen, chairman, and Daphne Yang, CEO, of Catchplay
L-R: Timothy Chen, chairman, and Daphne Yang, CEO, of Catchplay

SINGAPORE - Catchplay, a Taiwan-based film distributor has joined the bandwagon of on-demand content providers taking on Netflix in the region with claimed advantages such as a “stronger movie lineup”, tailored content, easy user interface, and local content-production ambitions.

The on-demand service was launched in Taiwan in March and rolled out in Indonesia in June with Telkom Indonesia. In Singapore, it is partnering with StarHub offering both single rentals and a subscription-based service. It will launch in Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand within the next two years.

“We see ourselves as quite differentiated,” Daphne Yang, Catchplay’s CEO, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “We work with local partners, secure the latest titles and put in a lot of effort into creating an environment and user interface that stands out.”

The company claims to offer tailored content for each market closely mirroring local box-office trends. In Singapore, for instance, a majority of its content library will consist of big studio releases, Asian titles will account for 15 percent of Catchplay’s portfolio while independent films will make up the rest.

Commenting on the competitive landscape, Yang said the Netflix’s one-size-fits all approach does not work for audiences in Asia-Pacific. “They are expanding too ambitiously and ignoring cultural differences and regulatory environment," she said. "I think it’s quite difficult for them to make things right.”

Indeed, the video-streaming giant faces challenges in Asian markets.

In Indonesia, for instance, the film censorship board slammed Netflix for carrying violent and sexual content. The communications ministry then demanded the firm set up a local office and pay taxes. Until then, state telco Telkom has blocked the service.

Competition from local streaming sites and global players such as Amazon, Hulu and HBO are also hurting the company. According to Techcrunch, there are more than 35 streaming services catering to local markets in Asia. For example, iFlix is available in Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines, and offers licensed content from US studios.  

Users have complained that Netflix's content libraries in many Asian countries are far smaller than in the US. The company launched its services globally to more than 130 new countries, including certain markets in Asia on 6 January.

According to Media Partners Asia, Netflix sorely lacks local depth across big markets like India, Indonesia and Korea.

“The full array of Netflix’s US library will also take time to come online in many Asian markets. Licensing complexities may delay the process further,” said Vivek Couto, executive director of MPA.

Catchplay will be accessible on TV, computers and mobile devices, and users will be able to switch seamlessly from one device to another without interruption. Its player technology will automatically adapt to network speeds, the firm emphasized.

Established in 2007, Catchplay is one of Taiwan’s largest film distributors and digital content providers. The firm has invested in the production of theatrical releases, financing, home videos, digital content licensing and linear TV.

The Taiwanese firm has content partnerships with NBC Unilversal, Paramount and Warner Brothers. Within the region it has deals with Golden Village, Shaw, Cathay Keris Films and mm2.

The company is also looking to invest in content and production opportunities in the markets where it has launched. “Our base was theatrical releases, and those relationships took time," Yang said. "But we don’t see ourselves as a distribution channel, we are content people.”

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