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Hong Kong's largest telco launches streaming service for Asia

Netflix has a new regional competitor, with a new service, PCCW's Viu, to provide Asian customers with content from Korea for free.

The Viu streaming service gives Asia users access to the latest Korean dramas.
Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

Hot on the heels of Netflix launching in Asia (as well as the rest of the world), Hong Kong's largest telecommunications company, PCCW, is making a streaming service available in the region.

The new service, called Viu (pronounced "view"), will be streaming the latest Korean dramas and variety programs a mere eight hours after they air on TV. Viewers will have the option to view the shows with English or Chinese subtitles.

This makes it much faster than some of its competitors, including Dramafever, which also streams Korean content to US audiences -- though it isn't available in Asia.

Growing Internet speeds around the world give opportunity to companies like PCCW, with more and more people having Internet strong enough to stream high quality video. Unfortunately for smaller players in the streaming industry, global leader Netflix is also taking advantage -- last week at CES the American giant announced that its widely used platform was expanding its reach to over 130 countries, a huge increase from the 60 it was previously available in.

Meanwhile, Korean content, though it may sound niche, actually has a large market throughout Asia. "We've done a survey of online users in Asia," said Janice Lee, Viu's managing director of PCCW Media at the local launch in Singapore. "Out of that actually, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent watch Korean dramas. In Singapore, it's over 50 percent."

"Korean content travels very well across the Asian market. We're planning on adding Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese content, and PCCW also produces our own content and we'll definitely be bringing it to Viu as well."

While Viu currently operates on a freemium model, the company plans to introduce a premium service that does away with ads. Viu did not say when this would be happening.

For now, Viu is currently only available in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, but the company has plans to launch in India and Indonesia by the end of 2016's first quarter. Viewers can view the service's content from their phones, tablets or on a PC. Viu also offers a download option for users who want to store files locally.