HOOQ now offers free content

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AFTER a successful initial run in Indonesia last year, Asian video-on-demand service HOOQ has extended its “freemium” tier to the Philippines, promising over 1,000 pieces of content that can be viewed for free.

“HOOQ is attuned to the evolving needs of the social, convenience-driven and digital-savvy Filipino. We understand local nuances and, most importantly, we get our audience, that’s why we decided to add a free tier,” Sheila Paul, HOOQ Philippines country manager said in a statement.

Called HOOQ Free, the new feature allows users to view free content on the service alongside digital TV and internet TV channels like Buzzfeed and CNN Philippines for free without the need to sign up. The tier also lets users view bite-sized content from popular titles like The Flash.

A cursory view of the mobile app showed that the pilot episodes of several local series like Pangako Sa’yo and Got to Believe, and foreign series like The Mentalist, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Drop Dead Diva are offered for free.

The free movies include HOOQ’s own original, Ulan, and several movies which starred the recently deceased Eddie Garcia: Papunta Ka pa lang, Pabalik na Ako, Mano Po, and Nagalit Ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi.

Another of HOOQ’s original shows, Sex Talks with Dr. Holmes, is set to hit the service. The 10-episode series is said to be a “helpline for those who have questions and concerns about sex and how it figures in their daily lives.” The series is hosted by Dr. Margarita Holmes, a Filipino psychologist specializing in sex therapy.

“As someone who watches online video, you don’t want to take too many steps before we get into the content,” Vishal Dembla, chief commercial officer at HOOQ, said during a press conference on June 20 at Power Mac Spotlight in Makati City.

While the content is free, there is a trade-off — Mr. Dembla announced that HOOQ will be introducing ads with the free content but promised that these will not be “intrusive to the watching experience.”

“[We] can easily tell when the audience is getting turned off by ads. We’re going to start small and grow incrementally, so it’s not a whole lot of advertising,” he explained.

The service will introduce new content from its library to the free tier every quarter.

Last year, Ms. Paul told BusinessWorld that HOOQ was playing with the idea of having a free tier and during a roundtable following last week’s launch, she said that “they took some time to make sure the experience is right.”

“We did Indonesia [first to] see how it did there before we took the best [practices] from them and then implement it in the Philippines,” she said.

Mr. Dembla said that now that they’ve launched in Indonesia and the Philippines, they are looking at doing the same in Singapore

Aside from the free tier, HOOQ Philippines is also set to introduce more flexible “sachet” payment options within the quarter.

“When we really think about the mobile environment [in the Philippines]… it’s mostly prepaid. We always said we want to have a million stories for a billion people and we won’t get to a billion people by sticking to a postpaid environment,” Mr. Dembla said. — Zsarlene B. Chua