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Tencent makes Southeast Asia move with Iflix purchase

Chinese technology giant Tencent has announced the purchase of Malaysian online streaming service Iflix’s “content, technology, and resources” as it seeks to enhance its presence in Southeast Asia.

Tencent today (Thursday) said that Iflix’s portfolio of “international, local, and original content” would allow it to expand its international video streaming service, WeTV, which launched in Thailand last year.

The deal is worth “several tens of millions of dollars,” according to US entertainment media publication Variety.

Tencent said: “This is in line with our strategy to expand our international streaming platform, WeTV, across Southeast Asia and provide users with international, local and original high-quality content in a wide range of genres and languages.

“The purchase comprises a strong local network across emerging markets with a wide and compelling selection of video content such as TV shows, movies and local originals, to stream or download, on any Internet-connected device. Through the purchase, WeTV will further extend our presence in the video streaming industry across Southeast Asia, to reach a broader audience base within the region and to better serve our users with better viewing experience.”

Iflix currently operates in 13 Asian territories: Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Maldives and Cambodia. As of April 2020, it is said to have over 25 million active users on its service.

However, it is reported to be facing significant accumulated losses and financial difficulties. According to Variety, it reported a 30-per-cent increase in after-tax losses to $158m (€140.9m) in the 2018 calendar year, while a planned initial public offering on the Australian Stock Exchange was pulled earlier this year when the Covid-19 global pandemic struck.

Iflix has been struggling with the cost of its content rights deals, including at least one major sports rights deal. A landmark 10-year deal for Malaysian Super League football rights fell apart at the end of last year.

Iflix’s other sports content investments have included, in August 2018, a deal with pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports to deliver live English Premier League and Spanish LaLiga football to its customers in Cambodia, as well as highlights in a number of other Asian markets.

It is thought that Tencent intends to maintain the Iflix brand name for a period of at least six to 12 months. The majority of its current staff are also expected to be retained, along with chief executive Marc Barnett.

 

Update: Story updated on 29 July 2020 to include information that the Malaysian football deal had ended last year.