OTT service provider Starz Play is the leading service provider in the region, holding 26% of the market share compared to Netflix’s share at 16%, and icflix’s at 11%, according to a study by market research company, IHS Markit.
While the online subscription video market (OTT) currently stands at around 25% of the pay-TV market in MENA, this is set to increase to more than 50% by 2020 according to the study.
Starz Play also tops the region in terms of revenue, holding 28% of the share, followed by Netflix at 21%. Starz Play sees its subscribers split fairly equal between KSA and the rest of the GCC, with 30% of sign-ups coming from the Kingdom.
According to the study by IHS Markit, the CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of online video subscriptions between 2013 and 2022 is predicted to be 64.2%; in comparison, the pay-TV market is estimated to grow at a much lower rate of 6.1%. During this time, OTT subscriptions are expected to rise above 5 million.
Commenting on the growth of the company, Maaz Sheikh, CEO and Co-Founder of Starz Play said: “We launched Starz Play in April 2015, and since then we have watched it grow from a start-up with an inaugural team of just 15 to an industry-leader employing 100 extremely talented individuals. It is an honour to celebrate our third anniversary with each and every one of the team members.
“Not only have we managed to secure investment funds of $125m during that short time, we have also strengthened our service exponentially with brand new features such as our download function, formed a wealth of strategic partnerships with major telecommunications providers and developed a world-class technology service across all leading platforms, today boasting more than 10,000 hours of content.”
Commenting on the findings of the study, Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, Principal Research Analyst at IHS Markit said: “Starz Play deserves the leading seat in 2017 in both subscriptions (with 26% share of the market) and revenues (with 28% share of the market) as it had successfully implemented a strategy focusing on partnerships with telcos and pay TV operators, on a pricing regime that varied depending on the region, on offering quality local content and content with high relevance to some MENA regions.
“This policy has paid off as Starz Play subscriptions experienced a staggering growth of rate of 112% between 2015 and 2017.”
Starz Play has a range of deals with telcos including Etisalat, du, Saudi Telecom Group, Ooredoo Group, Zain Jordan, Orange Jordan, Mosaic TV, Orange Egypt and Orange Morocco. This has allowed Starz Play, the release stated, to provide its service through multiple internet protocol television systems, and even allow its customers to pay through mobile billing – in a market that has a low penetration of credit cards (a considerable part of the population outside the Gulf doesn’t have a bank account). Also according to the study, the company’s varying price policy between the Gulf (higher) and the rest of MENA has also contributed to Starz Play’s success. –
“We offer a localised product for the MENA region”: Maaz Sheikh’s exclusive interview on achieving the milestone.
Speaking to BroadcastPro ME about the reasons behind the surge in numbers of subscribers, Sheikh said: “We offer a localised product for the MENA region – from content to user-interface to payment option – all aspects of the service are tailoured for each market within MENA. We are consistently ranked as the one of the top 20 websites in UAE and KSA by overall sessions.”
Sheikh attributed the success of the platform to a combination of factors. He elaborated: “On content, we carry seven of the top 10 most watched Hollywood shows in UAE and KSA. In Ramadan, we will show nine brand new Arabic TV series covering all genres – drama, comedy, and thriller. We carry over 300 latest Bollywood movies subtitled and dubbed in Arabic. For the Maghreb audience, we carry over 3,000 hours of French and French dubbed content. No other OTT service in this region carries this depth or breadth of content across Hollywood, Arabic, Bollywood and French languages.
He continued: “We are the ONLY SVOD service to be available on the region’s IPTV networks. We are now available on Etisalat E-life and STC. Also in addition to credit card, we offer mobile payment and in-app. From Muscat to Marrakech, we work with more than 17 mobile operators, covering each country, to offer customers convenient payment through their mobile phone bills. No other OTT service has this reach or payment network options in the region.
“Lastly, we have a very strong personalisation and recommendation engine that relies on AI and machine learning to personalise the content that is served to each subscriber based on their consumption patterns and user profile.”
Commenting on the potential of disruption from the OSN-Netflix partnership, he observed: “The service is not launched yet. We will wait to see as and when the service is launched in the market. We plan to stay focused on our core business and maintain our leadership position in this space.”
On Starz Play’s strategy moving forward, Sheikh said: “We plan to stay focused on MENA region. We will continue to invest in content and quality programming. In UAE, our strategic partnership with Etisalat will continue to expand and grow making it easier for users to watch their favourite TV channels as well as Starz Play on-demand. We will also continue our investment in product to enhance user experience across all their favourite devices from smart phones to smart TV to gaming consoles.”