Discovery, StarzPlay Partner for SVOD Distribution

Discovery and StarzPlay March 16 announced a partnership that will see the former’s Dplay streaming video service available across the Middle East and Asia (MENA) on StarzPlay, Starz’s international SVOD based in Dubai with more than 1 million subscribers.

The agreement affords StarzPlay subs access to thousands of hours of content, segregated into playlists dedicated to specially curated interest verticals — including crime, lifestyle, food, wildlife and more. New content will be added to the platform each month.

Discovery TV franchises include “Shark Week,” “MythBusters,” “Gold Rush,” “Expedition Unknown,” “House Hunters International” and “Say Yes to the Dress,” among others.

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“This is the first time Discovery is taking its content beyond the pay-TV universe in the region and opening it up to a whole new customer base,” Amanda Turnbull, GM, Discovery Middle East & Africa, said in a statement. “As we commence our pivot toward digital, this milestone sets the benchmark for Discovery’s continued growth in the digital space.”

Following a free trial period of up to one-month (varies across the region), monthly subscription to the content costs AED/SAR15 ($4) per month as an add-on package.

“With this partnership we are starting a new chapter in company’s growth to become the one-stop shop for premium content,” said Danny Bates, chief commercial officer of StarzPlay.”

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Dplay will be available in Q2 2020, through existing StarzPlay apps, including Apple TV. StarzPlay is available to download online and via respective iOS and Android app stores.

 

StarzPlay Streaming Marvel Movies Ahead of Disney+ Euro Debut

Disney’s subscription streaming service is coming to Europe and other regions outside the United States. But Lionsgate’s StarzPlay is already streaming Marvel movies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Due to pre-existing arrangements, Marvel superhero titles such as Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3; Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, and Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Avengers: Endgame are all available on the $8.99 monthly service.

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Disney and Starz last year made a marketing deal enabling Starz-licensed Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be available instead on Disney+ when it launched on Nov. 12, 2019.

Before the launch of Disney+, CEO Bob Iger told analysts the company was “encumbered” by licensing arrangements it had with a number of different distributors, notably Netflix and Starz.

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Netflix Driving SVOD Growth in Middle East, North Africa

Netflix may be a mature business in the United States, but worldwide, the SVOD pioneer remains a driving force for subscription streaming video — especially in the Middle East and Africa.

New data from Digital TV Research estimates that by 2025, SVOD revenue in the Middle East and North Africa will reach $2.97 billion — up from $897 million in 2019. SVOD revenue will triple between 2019 and 2025. Turkey will total to $908 million by 2025, with Saudi Arabia adding $563 million and Israel $470 million.

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Netflix will generate 38% of the 2025 total (with its subscriber base doubling from 2019), followed by Lionsgate’s StarzPlay (23%) and Disney+ (11%, despite only starting in its first Arabic country in 2022). These three platforms will generate three-quarters of the Arab total by 2025.

Indeed, of Netflix’s 8.8 million net new subscribers in the fourth quarter 2019, more than half originated outside the U.S.

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“We forecast 29.63 million SVOD subscriptions by 2025, up from 12.25 million recorded at end-2019,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said in a statement. “Collectively, the 13 Arabic-speaking countries will overtake Turkey’s subscriber count in 2025.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Europe, the Middle East and Africa had 47.4 million Netflix subs as of Sept. 30, compared with 19.7 million March 31, 2017. Revenue during that same time period grew to $4 billion.

Netflix ended 2019 with 167 million subscribers worldwide.

Netflix Dominating Middle East, African Markets

Netflix’s market share remains unmatched in the United States. Since its global launch in 2016, the SVOD pioneer has been replicating that dominance worldwide – including in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region covering 20 countries.

New data from Digital TV Research found that Netflix had 1.8 million (36%) subscribers in the MENA region at the end of 2017 – 10 times more than Amazon Prime Video and three times more than Lionsgate-owned Starz Play.

That tally is expected to increase to 7.4 million (37%) subs by 2023. The MENA region will have 20.8 million SVOD subs by 2023, up from the 5.2 million subs in 2017.

Netflix will have 3.6 million subs in Arabic-speaking countries by 2023. This is higher than its nearest rival Starz Play with 2.8 million.

Turkey remains the leading SVOD country (spearheaded by Netflix) with 6.7 million subs projected by 2023 – or a third of the region’s total.

“Netflix is dominant across the MENA region … partly because it operates in more territories than its Arabic competitors,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said in a statement. “However, its success is down to more than geographic reach. The global appeal of its original content has spread throughout the region.”

Indeed, Netflix is spending upwards of $8 billion on original content in 2018 – much of it overseas.

Top SVOD services include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Icflix, Starz Play, Iflix, Wavo, beIN Connect and Shahid Plus, which collectively will account for 75% of MENA’s SVOD subs by end-2023, up from 56% in 2017.

Extracting Israel and Turkey, these eight platforms will retain 91% of SVOD subs.

SVOD revenue is projected to grow 600% through 2023 to $2.03 billion. Market leader Turkey will add $451 million in revenue to more than double its total to $603 million by 2023. Saudi Arabia will increase its SVOD revenue seven times to reach $351 million in 2023.

“Although overall subscriber numbers will climb impressively, there are just too many Arabic platforms,” Murray said. “They do not offer enough original or exclusive content to seriously challenge Netflix. We do not believe that the market can sustain this many Arabic platforms in the long run.”

Netflix Expands Middle East Presence

Netflix Feb. 19 announced a regional partnership in the Middle East with OSN, an entertainment network with broadcast rights into 24 countries across the Middle East and North Africa region.

The partnership comes amid a shifting global media landscape that sees demand for content across multiple platforms – including over-the-top – continue to grow.

OSN customers will be able to access Netflix’s content library via an updated set-top box that will be launched towards the end of the second quarter. Customers will also be able to pay for their Netflix subscription via one consolidated OSN bill.

Netflix’s first Arabic stand-up comedy, “Adel Karam: Live from Beirut,” is due to launch soon.

“The future of the entertainment industry in the MENA region will be shaped by providers who offer value and choice at every turn, CEO Martin Stewart said in a statement.

The deal also offers access to original series and films in 4K Ultra HD and HDR, including Bright, “Stranger Things,” “Orange is the New Black, “House of Cards” and The Crown,” “13 Reasons Why,” “Narcos,” and the new cyberpunk noir, “Altered Carbon.”

“With this regional partnership, OSN’s customers will be able to seamlessly access and enjoy all the best entertainment in one place,” said Maria Ferreras, VP business development for EMEA at Netflix.