Ride-hailing giant Grab says users can soon stream videos on its app

  • Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab said Tuesday users would soon be able to stream movies and TV shows on its app as a result of a partnership with regional video streaming start-up Hooq.
  • Users can choose from over 10,000 hours of content from an extensive library of Hollywood films, popular local dramas and free-to-air channels from Hooq.
  • Grab users would also get a three-month trial with the service, which will first be available in Singapore and Indonesia by the end of March, the companies said.
A woman walks past the Grab transport office in Singapore on September 24, 2018.
Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images
A woman walks past the Grab transport office in Singapore on September 24, 2018.

Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab said Tuesday users will soon be able to stream movies and TV shows on its app as a result of a partnership with regional video streaming start-up Hooq.

The companies said they will offer over 10,000 hours of content from an extensive library of Hollywood films, popular local dramas and free-to-air channels from Hooq. Grab users would also get a three-month trial with the service, which will first be available in Singapore and Indonesia by the end of March, the companies said.

Tuesday's move is in line with Grab's aim to become what it calls an "everyday super app," according to Hidayat Liu, group head of strategy at Grab.

"Among our customers ... video is the most important form of engagement for them. We're looking at the subscription-based video on demand, (which) actually is poised to grow three to four times over the coming few years," Liu told CNBC in an interview. "Based on that, we've looked at the priority of services we bring on board."

While Grab started out with ride-hailing, the start-up has over time introduced auxiliary services including food and grocery delivery, mobile payment, and micro-lending to the unbanked or underbanked in Southeast Asia. The idea of bundling multiple services inside a single app stems from the fact that users tend to use only a handful of applications everyday, even if they might have hundreds of apps downloaded onto their smartphones.

Liu cited Indonesia as an example.

"We see people tend to rely on opening two, three apps maximum per day," he said. "If you're not part of these top two or three apps, soon enough it becomes infrequently engaged."

Growing popularity of video streaming

Video streaming has grown in popularity both globally and across the region — with the prevalence of smartphones, high-speed internet connectivity and the emergence of video streaming services such as Netflix, regional player Iflix as well as a plethora of Chinese internet names including iQiyi.

Mobile analytics and data provider App Annie predicted in a recent report that, in 2019, 10 minutes of every hour spent consuming media across TV and internet will come from individuals streaming video on their mobile devices. Total time spent in video streaming apps per device is set to grow by 110 percent from 2016 to 2019, the report said.

In the Asia Pacific region, subscription revenue from video on demand services is set to grow to $390 million by 2022 from $60 million in 2017, according to a report from market research firm Dataxis.

Hooq started in 2015 as a joint venture between Singapore's largest mobile network operator Singtel, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. Entertainment and has steadily moved into producing local, original content — like most video streaming services today. It's currently available in the Philippines, Thailand, India, Indonesia and Singapore. Though the company declined to disclose how many users it currently has, its app on the Google Play Store showed there were more than 10 million downloads.

While Hooq also has its own proprietary app, its CEO, Peter Bithos, said that the partnership with Grab is a new way for the company to make its service readily available across multiple platforms. The partnership would potentially give the start-up access to Grab's massive user base in Southeast Asia.

"We took a risk and we started re-engineering our platform from the bottom up to be able to integrate seamlessly," he told CNBC, adding, "We've built our platform and our business strategy around how customers use video, not forcing customers to take a certain path." He explained that users could potentially start a film on the Grab app and then continue watching it from where they left off on the Hooq app.

Hooq has daily, weekly, monthly and annual subscriptions. It also has a free, limited service where the videos available are shorter and lighter, according to Bithos, and it is supported by advertisements.

Grab's Liu declined to disclose how it would make money off the new service but acknowledged plans to ultimately monetize it.