Southeast Asian Netflix competitor iFlix is playing a new game: it’s going to start streaming live sports events.
That’s uncharted territory for the Malaysian on-demand video platform. Netflix, which launched in several Southeast Asian countries late last year, has so far avoided going down that route.
iFlix announced today it will launch this feature in Indonesia first – its largest market, where it launched in June 2016. Iflix will live stream all matches of Indonesia’s first and second soccer league, in partnership with local broadcaster TVOne.
It’s not the only tech startup associating itself with the sport.
TVOne is a free-to-air channel known in Indonesia for its news and sports programming.
Live streaming runs against what on-demand platforms typically stand for, as they’re fixed to a particular time and schedule.
In 2015, Netflix content boss Ted Sarandos told Business Insider that live events don’t fit with Netflix’s watch-anytime model. Users subscribe to Netflix to watch movies, TV shows, or documentaries whenever they please.
But Sarandos didn’t rule out the possibility of Netflix eventually changing its attitude.
Amazon’s already doing it
Amazon recently entered live TV broadcast territory in the US by live-streaming 10 NFL games, in a deal that cost US$50 million.
Major social networks like Facebook and Twitter are also showing interest in the event live-streaming business.
What iFlix plans to gain from streaming sports events was not addressed in today’s press release. It may be an incentive for users to give the service a try – but the first and second league matches are also available on free TV, and live streams are found on YouTube and other sites, for those who prefer to watch on computers or smartphones.
But while streams of some matches may be available on other sources online, “these are not always consistent nor reliable,” argues an iFlix spokesperson.
Soccer, especially the local league, is growing in popularity in Indonesia and seems to have overcome some of its major challenges, like corruption.
iFlix isn’t the only tech startup associating itself with the sport. Local unicorn startups Go-Jek and Traveloka are the main sponsors of the first and second league.
Founder Patrick Grove is likely happy that his firm is outpacing Netflix in this regard. In an interview with Tech in Asia, he said his main weapon to stay competitive is speed. He wants to secure a firm footing in emerging markets, one that’s impossible to dislodge.
Iflix and other Southeast Asia-focused streaming sites like Hooq have been able to address regional customer demands faster than their US competitor. Knowing internet connections in the region are often slow and unreliable, both sites offered subscribers the option to download a few titles for offline viewing.
Netflix soon followed suit.
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