Special: Mena video-on-demand market poised to grow

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Consumers continually looking for entertainment at right price points.

The Middle East and North Africa's entertainment sector is poised to witness growth as interest in subscription video on demand (SVOD) services continues to increase.

The latest report released by Research and Markets indicates that there will be 27.16 million paid SVOD subscriptions for 20 countries in the Mena by 2025, up from 10.95 million recorded at the end of 2019.

By then, there will be 12.27 million subscriptions across 13 Arab countries, thrice the 2019 figure of 4.13 million and faster growth than for the rest of the region. Netflix will bring in five million, followed by StarzPlay (2.39 million) and OSN (2.28 million). These three platforms will generate 78 per cent of the Arab total by 2025.

Recently, Starzplay reported a robust 141 per cent growth in the number of unique users during April 2020 when the Covid-19 crisis peaked in the region, according to a new study conducted by PSB Research on 'The Rise and Rise of Streaming Video in the Mena Market'. The brand revealed that the UAE is largest growth market with users increasing 70 per cent year-on-year and the number of streaming hours growing 80 per cent.

Principal analyst Simon Murray said: "Netflix will remain the platform leader, more than doubling its subscriber total to 9.81 million by 2025. Its share of the Mena total will remain at around 36 per cent. About half of Netflix's Mena subscribers will be in Arab countries."

Maaz Sheikh, co-founder and chief executive officer of StarzPlay, said: "Our year-on-year growth is led by our focus on meeting the aspirations of our subscribers by offering content that is truly relevant to them and by deploying breakthrough technology. The findings will enable us to hone our content and offering further and assure greater value to our subscribers."

Similarly, over the past few months, OSN has seen a change in consumption patterns across their content with Disney+ Originals content and HBO content continued to be the highest contributors to the share of engagement. Family programming categories continue to be successful; it has also seen an increase in new genres with documentary and cooking shows gaining popularity.

Patrick Tillieux, chief executive officer of OSN, said: "Looking at consumption patterns in key markets we have also noticed an increase, Saudi Arabia specifically saw an average of over five hours of engagement per subscription per day. Over 50 per cent of new downloads have come from Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE and Kuwait."

Tillieux added: "Consumers will continue to seek out entertainment platforms that offer variety at the right price point. Globally, our industry has been going through a digital transformation, and that is true of our region as well. We've been working hard over the past few years to be at the forefront of this transformation and we've not only succeeded at transforming, but we are in a great position to perform and outperform."

ViacomCBS International Media Networks Middle East recently launched Paramount+ in Mena, an SVOD streaming service that offers audiences an extensive line of ViacomCBS content and from third parties, including movies, TV series, telenovelas and cutting-edge comedy.

Tracey Grant, vice-president of content and channels for ViacomCBS International Media Networks Middle East, said: "We have seen a massive growth in content consumption during lockdown. In 2020, we believe major international video markets will experience several years' worth of change in consumer behaviours in a single year due to the pandemic. The pandemic has also contributed to accelerating shift from scheduled viewing to streaming on-demand and represents a step-change in the rate of market disruption."

"Major advertising markets are also witnessing signs of recovery particularly in key ad sales markets. We foresee it will continue to grow across 2020 while it is subject to effective management of the pandemic in 2021 as there is still a long way to go."

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Sandhya D'Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Al Khaleej Today, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.

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