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Asian streaming service Viu looks to grow with more original content

Besides relying on Korean content, the Hong Kong company is investing in its own programming.

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Viu's latest show, No Sleep No FOMO, features a pan-Asia cast of celebs completing challenges in unknown destinations. 

Viu

You may not've heard of Viu, a Hong Kong-based video streaming service, but it's already used by 30 million people.

That's a far cry from Netflix's 137 million, but Viu's reach is smaller. It's focused in 17 markets, including South Africa and the company tells me it's gained 14 million new users just last year alone.

Relying primarily on subtitled licensed Korean content, such as dramas and entertainment variety shows, Viu also has Hong Kong content and some of its own originals. But now it's hoping a new show, No Sleep No FOMO, featuring a pan-regional cast, will catch on.

The show is a travelogue, dropping celebrities into unexpected locations around the world, including Switzerland. They're given 60 hours to complete 60 missions without sleep. The program will feature Singapore-based host Paul Foster and Korean singer and variety star Kim Jong Kook, as well as a slew of celebs from the region.

Social media will also play a big part, letting viewers use hashtags to influence the show and create what Viu calls "co-segments."

"Instead of casting a single regional celebrity, we also selected different celebrities and social media stars who can connect with audiences digitally and socially in various segments and countries," said Janice Lee, managing director of PCCW Media, which operates Viu. "They together account for a remarkable fan base of more than 12 million social media followers apart from Viu's own 30 million user base."

Lee added that the company plans to focus on social engagement as a way to connect with its "Viu-ers."

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The No Sleep No FOMO cast doing a Korean heart sign.

Viu

Korean programming will still play a big part -- Viu partners with Korea's top five broadcasters: KBS, MBC, SBS, CJ ENM and JTBC. But the company is also teaming with Samsung to get its content to certain markets in Asia, a move similar to marketing efforts by Netflix and Amazon, which involve dedicated buttons on LG remotes.

Whether the strategy pays off remains to be seen, but more and more streaming services are pushing into delivering more original content.

"We are seeing this an opportunity for us to create more original content as well as localizing pan-regional popular content to offer more relevant content to our viewers," said Lee.

"The growth in both our user base as well as in our revenues from ad-supported and subscription tiers strengthens our belief that we're on the right track."