Streaming service with new set-top box may shake up Singapore TV market

The Walking Dead is one of the popular US TV shows available on Netflix.
The Walking Dead is one of the popular US TV shows available on Netflix. PHOTO: FOX INTERNATIONAL CHANNELS
With Freedom VPN integrated into ViewQwest's new 4K media player, anyone with the box can gain access to sites like Netflix, regardless of his Internet service provider.
With Freedom VPN integrated into ViewQwest's new 4K media player, anyone with the box can gain access to sites like Netflix, regardless of his Internet service provider.PHOTO: VIEWQWEST

New set-top box lets broadband users access overseas sites like Netflix without hassle of changing equipment

Broadband users on any network - including Singtel, StarHub and M1 - can now get access to the movie streaming services of overseas websites, such as Netflix and Hulu Plus.

A new set-top box launched yesterday will spare movie fans the hassle of changing their computer, router and modem settings.

Previously, fuss-free access to such sites was available only to broadband subscribers of Internet service providers (ISPs) ViewQwest and MyRepublic, which have the same virtual private network (VPN) technology in their broadband networks that the new box contains.

 

But now that ViewQwest has transferred its VPN know-how into a set-top box, it does not matter which ISP consumers subscribe to.

The 4K box will go on sale next Thursday at a promotional price of $249 at tech trade show Comex, held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

  • What's in store

  • Netflix's strength is its back catalogue of Hollywood TV shows and original programming (marked as N).

    Netflix United States TV shows include:

    1. House Of Cards (N)

    2. Breaking Bad (N)

    3. Daredevil (N)

    4. The Walking Dead

    5. Marvel's Agents Of Shield

    6. Mad Men

    7. The Tudors

    8. Halt And Catch Fire

    9. Damages

    10. Marco Polo (N)

    Some movies on Netflix:

    1. Hercules

    2. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

    3. The Wolf Of Wall Street

    4. Transformers: Age Of Extinction

    5. The Interview

    6. Noah

    7. I, Frankenstein

    8. World War Z

    9. The Expendables 3

    10. And So It Goes

    Hulu's strength lies in having current seasons of US TV shows. They include:

    1. Hannibal

    2. Master Chef

    3. America's Next Top Model

    4. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

    5. America's Got Talent

    6. Homeland

    7. Bachelor In Paradise

The service is immediate once it is set up. The usual price will be $299.

The box sits between the television and the Internet modem.

Once plugged in, users can start streaming Hollywood movies and television series from the pre-installed Netflix and Hulu Plus apps, as well as British drama series from the BBC iPlayer app.

However, users must subscribe to either Netflix or Hulu Plus, both of which have a monthly fee of $8.

After the first year, customers also have to pay ViewQwest $10.70 a month to continue to use its VPN service, whichever ISP they use.

"Viewers want to get their entertainment fix without the fuss of complicated set-ups or worrying whether their ISP offers VPN (services)," said chief executive officer of ViewQwest Vignesa Moorthy.

More than half of the Internet traffic on ViewQwest's broadband network is from users accessing Netflix content, he added.

This is more than three times the traffic going to YouTube.

Marketing manager Aaron Koh, 39, said VPN services are already available on the Web for as little as US$50 (S$70) a year and can be used on any broadband connection.

"But you need to know how to set up your devices," he said. "A plug-and-play box like what ViewQwest is offering may be a bit expensive but will be hassle-free for the uninitiated."

Singtel declined to comment on the new set-top box, which could threaten its pay-TV business.

Ms Lin Shu Fen, StarHub's head of entertainment and SmartLife, said: "StarHub respects the intellectual property rights of content owners... This contrasts with third-party VPN service providers which may not have the content owners' consent for legitimate access to their intellectual property."

Countering, ViewQwest's Mr Moorthy said: "Local regulators have looked at this and are convinced that (VPN) is essentially a network service. We are not involved in content redistribution."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Streaming service may shake up TV market'. Print Edition | Subscribe