ABU DHABI // Netflix arrived in the UAE on Thursday in a move that was welcomed by its pay-television competitors.
While the US company is the world’s most prominent streamer, offering a range of previously unavailable content, it has entered a landscape where there are a number of providers already competing for viewers.
Streaming services such OSN, Starz Play, Icflix, and the Bollywood-focused Eros Now, to name a few, are among them.
“We do not see entrants as a threat or competition because we have already established our market credentials in delivering high-quality TV entertainment,” said Emad Morcos, OSN senior vice-president of business development and digital.
He said his company’s strength lay in the exclusive content it offered that was available nowhere else.
This includes programming from the WWE and HBO networks, as well as, ironically, the hit Netflix-produced series House of Cards.
“We have signed long-term deals with content providers for movies, series and general entertainment for first and exclusive access that will cement our pole position in premium content,” Mr Morcos said.
The company previously said that the launch of Netflix would be good for pay TV, with the potential to offer a choice to those who accessed content illicitly.
“We’re actually quite excited about them officially launching in the region because we feel it will help stop the phenomenon of the consumption of content via VPN [virtual private network] connections, or at the very least help to contain it,” Medea Nocentini, OSN’s vice president of corporate development, said last month.
A similar line was taken by Maaz Sheikh, president of Starz Play, which opened for business in the UAE last year offering subscribers access to a catalogue of more than 3,000 films.
“We’re happy to have Netflix in the Mena [Middle East and North Africa] region as we believe it will create more awareness of streaming video-on-demand service in the market, opening up opportunities for all players, and providing more choice of content for consumers.”
As for going toe to toe with a giant such as Netflix, he said Starz Play would be able to compete through the size of its catalogue, which includes films such as After Earth, Man of Steel, and TV programmes such as Breaking Bad and Dexter – for a Dh30 per month fee.
“We are aware of their global footprint. However, we believe our service is more geared towards catering to this region in terms of content, payment options and accessibility.”
Mr Sheikh said the company also offered 4k [4,000 pixel resolution] quality content at no additional charge, unlike Netflix, which charges more for a higher-quality stream.
In offering subscription-based pricing (Dh29 a month) and pay-per-view, Dubai-based Icflix is hoping its mix of Hollywood filmss and documentaries, Bollywood titles, and Arabic content will cater specifically to a UAE audience.
“We differentiate ourselves by the content we offer to our users,” said the company’s chief executive Carlos Tibi.
“We are happy that they [Netflix] have arrived because this will now give the public more choice and a chance to compare between content providers.”
Mr Tibi said Icflix had the largest library of Arabic content available online and continued to produce its own original content, such as El-Jenna (Borders of Heaven), which won the best actor award at last year’s Dubai International Film Festival.
Source: uae news