Singapore-based media group mm2 Asia will be launching a new on-demand streaming service in Singapore.
Called Cathay CineHOME, it offers a Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD) model where viewers pay a one-time fee for movie content.
The group acquired the Cathay brand for SGD 230 million in 2017, and now operates cinemas across Singapore and Malaysia, as well as produces Asian films.
This includes the ‘Ah Boys To Men’ franchise, ‘Long Long Time Ago’, and ‘Wonder Boy’. According to mm2, its originals will remain available for streaming on other platforms.
Designed to synergize with Cathay Cineplexes, Cathay CineHome will feature limited-period films after the end of their cinema runs. The platform is slated for release in the third quarter of 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the cinema industry. Safety regulations have forced cinemas to suspend its operations for months, or reduce their seating capacities.
Streaming flourishes as cinemas close
In its latest financial year, mm2 saw net profits decline by 81.5%. Mm2 had to subsequently implement cost-cutting measures, according to Leslie Ong, chief executive of mm2’s events production unit.
By comparison, there has been a spike in viewership on streaming services. Stay-at-home orders during this pandemic have made home-viewing increasingly popular among audiences.
More than 15 million new customers have joined Netflix in the last quarter, while HBO Now saw a 70% increase in movie viewership.
It’s no wonder then that Southeast Asian hopefuls are also jumping onto the streaming bandwagon.
Cathay CineHome is mm2’s attempt to capitalize on the flourishing on-demand streaming trend. In Indonesia, GoPlay—the streaming unit of Gojek—just completed a round of independent financing.
Fierce competition kills smaller streaming services
Whether smaller Southeast Asian brands can survive amid fierce competition is another matter.
International corporations like Disney, Apple, and Amazon are all racing to acquire a slice of the streaming market share.
Although China’s streaming giants have been making massive net losses, Tencent’s potential takeover of Baidu-owned iQIYI will command over 220 million subscribers, beating Netflix.
Read this: Gojek’s GoPlay on how to create a sustainable business and promote Indonesian movies: Q&A with GoPlay CEO Edy Sulistyo
Smaller brands are also struggling. Malaysia’s iflix is being acquired by Tencent as the business threatens to go under, and HOOQ has shut down amidst massive losses.
HOOQ was established in 2015 as a joint venture between Singtel, Warner Bros, and Sony entertainment. Despite the combined expertise of the three conglomerates, high costs of content and operations led to the platform’s liquidation just five years later.
In an official statement, HOOQ stated that “consumer’s willingness to pay has only increased gradually” in an increasingly saturated streaming market.
Despite these failures, small brands like MUBI, Hulu, and Vudu have been able to hold the fort. IFC Films Unlimited reported that the indie streaming platforms saw a 50% increase in subscribers during the pandemic outbreak.
Will Cathay’s brand be enough for viewers?
Melvin Ang, executive chairman of mm2, said that Cathay CineHOME aims to be a “complementary platform to the cinema exhibition business.“
The outlook is grim, but Cathay’s household namesake may be able to leverage on local customers.
In addition, mm2’s relatively diversified portfolio of media production, distribution, and media events may be able to tide it through initial capital losses.
Still, how Cathay CineHOME will differentiate itself from its competition remains unclear. Moreover, Asian film streaming is not new to the industry.
Without a way to differentiate itself from the myriad of players on the market, Cathay CineHOME risks being drowned out by larger players and new, dynamic companies.
Currently, mm2 seems committed to expanding into the streaming industry and there are plans in the pipeline to launch a short-form video streaming service called mPlay Asia.
However, without the ability to stand out from the vast options available on the market, Cathay CineHOME and any similar ventures are likely to fizzle out.
This article was first published by Vulcan Post.