YuppTV secures more cash

Thomas Flanagan/Faultline/Rethink Technology Research
18 Oct 2016

South Asian OTT video service YuppTV has received a $50-million investment from Emerald Media, a pan-Asian investment fund, in return for an undisclosed significant minority stake.

India is YuppTV’s primary market, and it has reportedly enjoyed a successful opening period in the region since its launch there in October 2015. It has achieved this by signing up a host of deals with content providers, including B4U, one of the world’s largest Bollywood TV networks. This latest investment will allow YuppTV to invest further in bolstering its Asian content portfolio.

Emerald Media’s parent company KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts), the US private equity giant, has pockets deep enough to invest substantially more than $50 million, and will certainly be looking to expand the global footprint of YuppTV in the near future. Emerald Media was formed in partnership with the Chernin Group, and its film and TV production subsidiary Chernin Entertainment may well begin producing content for YuppTV, or pushing US content its way. Emerald is headed up by Rajesh Kamat and Paul Aiello, the ex-head of Star TV.

Netflix, meanwhile, barged into the Indian market at the start of this year, in the hope of signing up a chunk of the 180 million or so internet users in the country, around 15% of the population and rising fast. Netflix claimed an initial surge in India, but declined to reveal how many of the free trialists were converted into paying subscribers.

As a result, reports suggest that Netflix India is being overshadowed by its rivals in the region – chiefly YuppTV, Hooq, and local SVoD service Hotstar, owned by 21st Century Fox’s Star India — due to a lack of content in native languages, or indeed content that is reflective of local cultures. In these markets, it’s not as simple as offering House of Cards with subtitles and hoping it will have the same resounding success that was achieved in North America and Europe, however, its links to Hollywood give Netflix a major head start for getting blockbuster films to Asian viewers.

The same is true for Netflix’s lack of local content in the rest of the Asia Pacific, but there are still lucrative opportunities waiting out-side of the enormous populations in India and China, especially in countries where there aren’t native OTT video services that have already cemented themselves in the market. But smaller APAC countries will pose similar challenges if there is not a focus on local content.

Indian media outlet First Post claimed that half way through Netflix’s tenure in India, it had only managed a subscriber base ten times smaller than that of Hotstar. After five months of testing Indian waters, Netflix eventually decided it was time to invest in Indian content, and splashed out on Bollywood titles and its first original Indian series called Sacred Games.

Another downfall for Netflix is that its price points do not reflect local market incomes, in India it is more expensive than traditional pay TV services — if it wants success in these markets, it will surely have to adjust. The regulatory hurdles in Asia are another issue which add to the mounting pile of obstacles faced by companies trying to make it in an unfamiliar continent.

YuppTV is also going where Netflix doesn’t dare step foot, for now anyway, into grabbing live sports rights. It recently secured broadcasting for T20 cricket matches between India and the West Indies.

It has diversified its offerings further with a platform dedicated to short form content, YuppTV Bazaar, and has teamed up with Indian media firm ScoopWhoop to host viral content in India. Hotstar also offers cricket, with the Indian Premier League racking up 100 million online viewers this year on the service.

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