HMV Digital China unveils online video streaming platform in challenge to Netflix, other rivals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 9:23pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 10:59pm

HMV Digital China Group, Hong Kong’s largest music and DVD retailer, launched bilingual online video-streaming platform Hmvod on Wednesday, in a move that will see the company compete directly with Netflix and a spate of other streaming service providers in Hong Kong.

The company, which has operated in the city for 22 years, told a press conference that Hmvod now offers around 1,500 films, which it hopes to expand by 2018 to provide 5,000 videos for subscribers with content ranging from Hong Kong productions to Hollywood movies.

“Cinema screens in Hong Kong are not sufficient to meet the needs of local and overseas film distribution,” said Stephen Shiu, chairman of HMV Digital China at the conference, adding that Hmvod would offer more “genuine Hong Kong” style films that cater to the Hong Kong audience.

Hmvod’s platform would be “quite similar” to Netflix, but would be more appealing to Hongkongers because of its Cantonese content, Shiu said.

The Hmvod’s platform supports both English and traditional Chinese.

“We will gradually roll out TV series on Hmvod that you would never expect to see on traditional TV channels,” he said.

Hong Kong now has around four major video-on-demand (VOD) providers, including US based Netflix, mainland China’s LeEco, TVB’s MY Super TV and PCCW’s ViuTV.

Many brick and mortar entertainment retailers have started to shift toward online video streaming amid rapidly changing viewer habits.

Content is the key for Hmvod, and many of its rivals, to survive in this city, analysts said.

“Hong Kong audiences are very keen on Japanese and South Korean dramas, so we will see what Hmvod has in terms of this content,”said Ray Zhao, a TMT analyst with Guotai Junan Securities.

He argued that there would still be room for growth for Hmvod on the Hong Kong market, as many viewers are in the process of migrating online from traditional television broadcasting when it comes to watching programmes and dramas series.

“Good content is everything when it comes to live streaming,” he added.

However, analysts said it was not clear that the Hmvod platform would be able to compete with incumbent video streaming platforms such as MY Super TV, owned by TVB, which offers a wide selection of classic Cantonese videos.

“I don’t quite see how the city could accommodate yet another video streaming provider,” said professor Chong Tai-Leung from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.“With Hong Kong being such a tiny market, how can it compete effectively with other rivals?”

He said proximity to the Hong Kong audience was an advantage for HMV Digital China.

HMV’s business in Hong Kong has changed hands a couple of times over the last decade. When the iconic British retailer HMV filed for bankruptcy in January 2013, local buyout firm AID Partners took over its Hong Kong and Singaporean arms as well as the rights to develop the brand on the mainland and in Taiwan and Macau.

Less than three years later, AID Partners transferred a 82 per cent stake in HMV to Hong Kong-listed entertainment firm China 3D Digital, controlled by Shiu, a Hong Kong film veteran, for HK$408 million.

With an international marque in its stable, China 3D Digital renamed itself HMV Digital China. When announcing the deal last March, Shiu said a buyout of HMV would add value to its film and artist management business.

HMV Digital China closed its Wednesday trading at 30 HK cents, up 1.69 per cent.