IT’S more than just getting “hooked.” For a former media executive and a self-confessed movie buff, getting an invitation to head an online company that deals with movies and online digital entertainment is certainly a dream come true. Jane Cruz-Walker says she loves watching movies and catching up on her favorite TV series online, and was elated when she was invited to join this newest venture of Globe and its regional partner Singtel, for an online video streaming service called HOOQ
that caters to the whole of Asia.
Formally launched only in March of this year, the start-up venture entered into a tie-up with Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros. Entertainment as well as other studio partners — Miramax, Dreamworks, Disney and local studios and TV networks — where they buy rights to their movies and TV shows to offer their customers unlimited access to a library of over 30,000 hours of Hollywood and Filipino movies and TV series. This partnership, Walker says, instantly made HOOQ the country’s biggest online video entertainment library.
The newly-minted country manager for the Philippines says what’s even more exciting for her is the fact that the company decided to make the Philippines their launching pad.
“In terms of media consumption, the Philippine landscape has thoroughly changed. We are one of the top countries in terms of growth in video media consumption, according to the latest survey,” she says. Walker adds that HOOQ is also one of the first in the country to go into paid video streaming services, and points out the vast potential, saying, “With the mobile technology right now, you can really watch anytime, anywhere. Let’s face it, these are very busy times, and it’s great to have this option to watch something anytime it’s convenient for you– whether at home, in the car, or even in the gym.”
Walker admits, however, that HOOQ is not the first to deliver this type of service to the Philippine market. Because of the huge potential this industry offers, other telcos and cable companies have also started coming out with their own versions of paid video streaming services. But Walker says among the things that give them the edge over their competitors is their strong partnership with Globe and their resources, which also enabled them to launch in Thailand (through AIS) and India, in partnership with Airtel, just a few months after the Philippine launch.
Another challenge that Walker says they had to deal with was the different infrastructure present in the Philippines compared to more progressive and even First World countries like the United States. But she points out that this is something they already knew from the start, so she says they made sure that “the product that we developed was designed to cater to this kind of market, no matter if you’re streaming with your 3G, using the different devices here. We know and studied the minimum requirements needed for each type of mobile, from the entry level to the high-end smart phones.”
HOOQ is banking on this flexibility to be able to reach its key target market, which is primarily the “millennials,” who spend a lot of time online, more than any other age bracket. Walker says the initial response when they first rolled out their beta system was very good, and adds that it was very encouraging to see this kind of response. Their partnership with Globe also enabled them to immediately roll out nationwide with a very affordable price rate, because they were able to reach all the existing customers that Globe currently has.
Walker says she is happy with the fast pace of progress their company is doing. Armed with over 10 years of experience in the digital and entertainment industry, she believes the Philippines is now in a position to not only take on local competitors, but also to lead in the region, especially with select industries such as BPO and IT [business process outsourcing and information technology].
Looking back, Walker says she is thankful to still be a part of a very vibrant industry, although she shared that this wasn’t where she originally envisioned herself as a college student. “I really wanted to be a newscaster,” she explains with a hearty laugh. “I remember practicing in front of a mirror with a newspaper, speaking in different accents. But right after graduation, I was fortunate enough to be asked by San Miguel Corporation to be a part of their marketing.” Since then, she has gone into other fields as well, although she spent most of her career in the digital and media industries.
These days, the bulk of her schedule goes to growing, continuously finding ways of innovating, and managing HOOQ, along with their core staff of six employees in the Philippines. But she makes sure to always allot some quality time with her son, who is also her sounding board and critic, especially when they are watching movies or a TV series together. This is also what’s great about her job now, she says. It affords her quality of life, which includes spending precious time with her family, while also doing something she equally loves –watching good quality movies whenever and wherever she wants.