Encouraged by India's decision to decriminalise homosexuality in September 2018, GagaOOLala, Asia’s first LGBTQ-focussed video streaming service, is planning to enter the country.
“It’s a perfect time,” Jay Lin, chief executive of Taipei-based content production, aggregation and channel distribution company Portico Media, which set up GagaOOLala in March 2017, told Reuters earlier this week.
“It’s a very exciting territory for us ... In India, we are hoping to not just stream our service but also find local producers and directors that we can collaborate with,” he said.
Last September, in a landmark judgement, the Indian Supreme Court lifted a colonial-era ban on gay sex. The apex court’s ruling made India one of the few Asian countries that supports LGBT communities openly. Countries including Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei outlaw sexual relations between men, and Indonesia has seen an increase in raids targeting LGBT+ people.
Lin, who grew up in California and worked as a lawyer in Silicon Valley before moving back to Taiwan in 2004, is an LGBT activist and a co-founder of Taiwan International Queer Film Festival, which organised its first edition in 2014. The announcement follows Lin’s visit to India last month to attend the second edition of KASHISH ChalChitra Utsav in Mumbai — the regional Language LGBTQ film festival.
“GagaOOLala is moving into India because of improved internet and payment technologies. Advances in internet access and speeds, mobile phone and payment technologies will help GagaOOLala target new viewers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” said Lin.
At the same time, Lin said, he plans to work with filmmakers across Asia to ramp up original LGBT+ productions, which will be screened on GagaOOLala.
The OTT (over-the-top) service claims to be Asia’s ‘gay Netflix’ and is currently available in 13 countries across Southeast Asia including Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and ten ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam).
GagaOOLala provides unlimited access to its LGBT+ films, TV series and documentaries for about USD 6 a month and has 150,000 registrations to the free section of the site, according to a Reuters report. The gay-themed content streaming service is now looking at allowing its members to pay for individual content rather than a monthly subscription to help Asian LGBT+ productions gain wider audience.
Of the registered users, around 5-10% are paying subscription fees of USD 5-7 a month, Lin told a London-based publication Screendaily last August. Taiwan still constitutes a major share of the registered users, but the interest is rising from countries like Singapore and the Philippines, he said.
In an interview with online publication Hornet, Jin said GagaOOLala will also launch GOL Studios, a film production platform to support queer films, in March 2019. “You can upload your project and we will help you find the necessary shooting resources, funds and connect with the right people to make that project come true. We are taking the concept of community to the next level,” he said.