Billionaire Richard Li’s streaming business is hitting charts and is gaining popularity. Summing up its initial public offering after its platform Viu beat Netflix Inc in subscribers in one of Asia’s most competitive markets. Viu is now Southeast Asia’s second largest streaming service by paid subscribers, trailing only Disney Plus, according to research firm Media Partners Asia.

Its success has driven the over-the-top media business of Li’s conglomerate PCCW Ltd to post a revenue jump of 29% in the first half of this year, narrowing losses by 75%.

The Streaming Platform Also Includes Small-Scale Music Platforms

The business which has it origin roots from Hong-Kong, which also includes a smaller music streaming platform, is expected to breakthrough even as early as the second half. It is said by PCCW Managing Director BG Srinivas. The group will consider introducing strategic partners or even a listing for the division, in an Aug 6 earnings call.

Rise of Viu

The rise of Viu in Southeast Asia has made an impact as the streaming space worldwide becomes mostly rooted by giants from Walt Disney Co and Netflix to China’s Baidu Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

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Viu’s Aim and Creating a Home in Foreign Marketplace

Viu CEO Janice Lee said that, “Our aim is to continue to be frontrunners in the digital entertainment space in Asia. We want to create a service in Asia for Asia, but we also understand Asia is not one region.”

An established track record of creating original content and are ramping up their focus on Southeast Asia as growth slows in home markets like the US. Netflix spent almost US$2 billion between 2018 and 2020 on creating and licensing shows in Asia, with Southeast Asia a key market.

Viu’s Future Plans and Richard’s Other Investments

Making strategic moves on growth opportunities in Southeast Asia and technology-driven sectors has been a prime and foremost focus for Richard Li. He is the younger son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing. The billionaire, 54, is expanding his insurance businesses in the region, as well as investing in e-payment and digital financing.

He’s also collaborated with billionaire Peter Thiel to establish blank-check firms with a focus to acquire new economy start-ups in the market.

Viu’s overnight success has framed Li’s image as a media and technology entrepreneur, which is rare among Hong Kong’s tycoons whose businesses mainly operate in traditional sectors like real estate, ports, utilities and retail.

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The Widely Used Tiered Model

One of Viu’s early coups was to introduce a hybrid model offering some content for free and some only available to its paying subscribers, at a time when other platforms were just courting the basic strengthening pillars.

Amid the lower spending power, free content lured in hordes of users and created an advertising revenue stream for Viu, one that surged 54% in the first half. Subscription revenue made a fair jump of 40%. Overall, Viu’s revenue grew 47% to US$62 million in the first half of the year.

Recent platforms iQiyi and Tencent’s WeTV have both adopted this tiered model embracing Viu’s success through it.Partnership with Local Wireless Operators

Viu was among the first major platforms to partner with local wireless operators and offer its service over mobile phones, with plans costing as compact and affordable as US$2 a month. Netflix in 2019 adopted a similar system, introducing under-US$5-a-month mobile-only plans in several Asian countries.

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Viu’s Reason to Exit India

Major other Asian markets like China and India are dominated by local platforms. Viu decided to exit India in 2019 after more than three years of operations because it lacked the cash to challenge bigger rivals.