How does TV.AE fit into the OTT picture in the region?
The OTT market in the Gulf region is relatively young. A year ago, it was just a handful of players, with various levels of funding, some with decent systems and fairly good content. Now there are two more: Netflix and TV.AE.
Our approach at TV.AE differed from the start. We began with a totally clean slate, designed to deliver a mix of events, narrative TV, films, live sports and user-generated content (UGC) to an Arabic audience. Focused now on the GCC region and Egypt, we plan to grow our free and subscription-based service throughout the MENA region and then beyond, paying special attention to the fast-growing and cosmopolitan audience of young Arabic-speaking adults.
What have been the key milestones for TV.AE?
To date, TV.AE has hit some big goals. We began building our backbone with Vimond Media Solutions in December 2015, met out go-live target of March 1 and then executed a hard launch in time for Ramadan.
Our portfolio ranges from four decades of archived Arab-language content to live coverage of events such as Fashion Forward Dubai, Dubai Lynx and Arabian Gulf League football. At launch, we featured exclusive Ramadan content, as well as all Abu Dhabi TV and Emarat TV Ramadan content. We are pleased to have secured worldwide media rights from one of our content partners, Abu Dhabi Media.
Going forward, TV.AE will offer movies and series from global studio giants, dubbed or sub-titled as needed, and we anticipate more sport content. But we will also have online inspired media in the form of web-episodes and are looking to nurture local aspiring producers, gain exclusive content and deliver it all in ways that work for our wide-ranging audience.
That kind of video delivery means uploading HD assets and transcoding them into a number of profiles that take account of whether the viewer’s mobile device is the latest Samsung with strong Wi-Fi or a much older phone with limited 3G connection.
Tell us about the Vimond platform.
Serving as our backbone, the Vimond Platform allows us not only to do massive ingest and transcode on the fly, but also quickly publish with all metadata having been wrapped and promo images and tags applied. This includes linear programming. Vimond was instrumental, for instance, in enabling TV.AE to take a live video feed from Dubai Lynx, an annual event for the MENA region’s creative communication industry, and then stream-cast it on the Platform.
What other innovations have you launched?
We have also introduced a novel dual-screen functionality that enables viewers to cast selected entertainment from mobile device or tablet into a TV screen, or watch two pieces of content simultaneously on different devices. Shared metadata enables a mobile phone to act as not only a remote but also a source of additional information about the movie’s cast, reviews and so on.
We sell monthly subscription packages, at a single price for everyone. Down the road, we will likely trial 24-hour subscriptions, which are popular across North Africa. At the same time, we draw viewers to the TV.AE platform with free content, powered by advertising. Of course, we expect to convert some percentage of them to subscribers over time. At another level, we expect TV.AE to change viewer behaviour.
During our hard launch at Ramadan, we knew viewing would rise on a programming-based schedule, after the iftar dinner, but were also hoping to see a shift from appointment TV to viewing on demand. In fact, a new spike appeared right away, much later in the night.
If you think that looks like young-adult behaviour, you’d be correct. To date, we have been scoring with our target demographic, aged 16-35.