Chinese internet giant Tencent has chosen Thailand as it first overseas market to expand its video-on-demand service to compete with Netflix and Line TV.
The company also plans to boost investment in cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) services in Thailand.
"This year, Tencent Thailand will invest in new business services to build a new engine of growth for corporate users apart from its strength in consumer businesses," said Krittee Manoleehagul, managing director of Tencent Thailand Co.
Starting last year, Tencent invested several hundred million baht to build its own data centre in Thailand in collaboration with TrueIDC.
"This will enable Tencent to serve corporate customers in Thailand in line with our global direction expanding into more industry-based solutions," Mr Krittee said.
Tencent also demonstrated an AI-based app at its new Thong Lor office and implemented facial recognition software for its 300 employees to access the office.
"Tencent selected Thailand as the first country to expand the Tencent Video service outside China," said Li Kaichen, director of strategy development of Tencent Group and head of Tencent's overseas video business.
"In Asean, Thailand and Indonesia are two strategic countries for Tencent and the company has a lot of consumer business in Thailand that it can leverage faster," he said.
Mr Li pointed to Thailand's high income per household and said Tencent hopes its exclusive Chinese content will become popular among Thais.
Tencent started its own video business in 2011 and launched its own studio, Tencent Penguin Pictures, in 2015 with a focus on producing exclusive Chinese series.
"We spent seven years to become the top video-streaming service in China with over 500 million active users per month, with 82 million paid users as of September 2018," Mr Li said.
Tencent's video revenue from VIP subscriptions increased 65% last year, while advertising rose 21%.
Mr Krittee said that since the soft launch of the WeTV app in November 2018, local content has risen, with 20 Thai dramas from One Channel and more to come.
WeTV also increased the number of Korean and US series. It will soon launch a web and smart TV version, as well as a bundle package with mobile operators.
Mr Krittee said Tencent has a large customer base, with 20-30 million users from Sanook, Joox and other games, so adding video content will enable it to serve a wider variety of customers.
According to a We Are Social study, Thais spend 3.44 hours watching video out of 9.11 hours spent on the internet per day.
Moreover, Mr Krittee sees video-on-demand services as a blue ocean market because the WeTV survey found that 51% of free users watch foreign content on pirate channels and 49% watch on licensed channels.