‘We are not in this business to build a unicorn,’ says iflix CEO Mark Britt after raising a US$133M investment round

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Localisation extends well beyond local content offerings and includes availability of local subtitles, censoring with respect for local and cultural sensitivities, and more

 

iflix Group CEO Mark Britt

When it comes to video streaming, the first name coming to our mind is Netflix. This Silicon Valley video-on-demand (VoD) company, which has bagged close to US$3 billion over multiple rounds of funding to date, has become quite a popular name among the youth and has grabbed a huge marketshare across the globe.

Although it has become a household name of sorts, Netflix has not made much headway in emerging markets. Mark Britt and Patrick Grove sensed an opportunity here and started iflix in 2015. Within just two years of launch, this Kuala Lumpur-headquartered startup became a force to recon with and expanded to over 19 countries in Asia and Africa.

iflix made headlines today after it bagged a whopping US$133 million in funding from some known names in the venture capital and streaming industries, such as Hearst, Evolution Media, PLDT, Jungle Ventures, EDBI, and Catcha Group.

e27 caught up with iflix Co-founder and group CEO Mark Britt to know more about the business and future plans.

Edited excerpts:

Netflix is quite strong in the VoD space across the world. The company recently started providing original content, producing localised content, and syndicating local content. How tough is the competition with Netflix?

The arrival of new players has been advantageous in helping consumers understand our service, particularly in a region where the subscription VoD model is still a relatively novel one. Localisation extends well beyond local content offerings and includes availability of local subtitles, censoring with respect for local and cultural sensitivities, standards and preferences, and much more.

Also Read: iflix officially opens its Africa HQ, plans to roll out in five African markets this year

We are passionately focused on the local customer in each market and solving their challenges, including providing solutions to pricing and payment options where credit card penetration is low and online payments are relatively unknown, infrastructure inconsistencies, mobile data constraints, compliance with local legislation and working with governments and local organisations as part of the local entertainment industry and ecosystem.

Apart from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video is also coming to SEA. As we know, it has the money and more famous collaborators and studios. How tough will be the competition with it?

In OTT, there are currently two primary types of players — the local homegrown players whose specialty is their local familiarity with the market, and the huge international behemoth.

International players frequently do not establish local operations, don’t pay local taxes, don’t censor in accordance with local sensitivities and standards, don’t invest in local communities, don’t promote local content players and creators, and instead just use local networks to promote their service.

In this paradigm, we believe there is a third model, which iflix aims to embody, through bringing world-class international standards and execution to emerging markets whilst building a local business, working with local partners, organisations and governments that is deeply committed and integrated within the local ecosystem, passionately focused on the local customer.

Illegal streaming is a serious problem dogging streaming firms in SEA. How are you going to combat the rise of illegal streaming sites? As you know, Hong Kong’s leading streaming site Viu failed to block illegal streaming of content …

As part of our commitment to the local content industry, we work closely and support both local and international organisations and initiatives, such as the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and Myanmar Motion Picture Organization (MMPO) on their platforms of intellectual property and overall development of the local movie industry.

You recently launched services in Africa. What kind of opportunities are you seeing in this geography, where smartphone penetration is still low and the growth of online payments is still staggering?

Africa is one of, if not, the fastest growing mobile market in the world. By 2020, Africa will have 720 million smartphone users. We aim to meet the entertainment needs of those growingly connected viewers.

While your service is available in almost all SEA markets, you seem to have omitted Singapore. Any reasons? Are you coming to Singapore soon?

We are focused on specifically on the opportunity in emerging markets and solving the challenges that exist within those markets. We have no plans to launch in Singapore at this time.

You always take the organic path to grow your business. Now, with a lot of cash in reserve, are you looking to grow inorganically by acquiring local players in some of the emerging markets?

Not at this time. The funds will be used to invest in our local content strategy including local cinema releases, productions and originals. Our most popular and impactful shows are predominantly local ones.

Also Read: iflix raises over US$90M to be the Netflix of Asia, Middle East and Africa

For example London Love Story and I Love You from 38,000ft, along with live local premier league football streaming — available for the first time on an OTT service — have drawn huge fan bases and popularity amongst local audiences in Indonesia.

Oi Jaja Mulut, our first iflix Original, received such high demand after the first episode aired, that we made the entire season available on the service shortly after and remains one of our best performing programmes in Malaysia.

We also recently announced our partnership with the Philippines’ ‘Queen of All Media’ Kris Aquino, one of the country’s most influential and celebrated actresses and public figures, to produce an original drama series. We have additionally greenlit a number of projects with the aim to create impactful, locally relevant content that has a familiar appeal.

A few of our local and incredibly talented partners include Indonesia’s Screenplay Productions and Malaysia’s Skop Productions Group.

You have covered more than half of emerging markets. Which markets are you going after next? Also, is expansion into Europe on the cards?

We are passionate about emerging markets and are evaluating opportunities in all regions where the specific challenges and conditions emerging markets present, exist, which may include some European regions. We just recently launched in Cambodia this week and are looking into launching more markets across Asia, MENA and Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) in the coming weeks and months.

Are you looking to partner with OEMs to bundle your app?

Definitely. Last May, we launched a multi-territory partnership with Samsung to bundle iflix with all Samsung Smart TVs sold in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand. We have additionally partnered with Roku, Alibaba and LG to develop and integrate the iflix app within their products to offer customers a exceptional, seamless viewing experience at home in addition to mobile.

We will continue to collaborate with leading, trusted brands to deliver our world-class service to as many devices as possible.

Are you looking to become a unicorn soon? What is your view on startups’ eagerness to build a billion dollar business?

We are passionate about building an exceptional, world-class business that capitalises on an extraordinary multi billion dollar global opportunity. That said, we are not in this business to build a unicorn.

For us, it is about our customers, our business and our markets. We get out of bed everyday with passionate focus on solving our customers’ challenges, delivering a better service and experience, and participating in a thriving local ecosystem.

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Image Credit: iflix

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Source: e27