Although online streaming is not expected to challenge the dominant position of broadcast & satellite TV anytime soon, video on demand (VOD) services are increasingly challenging for a bigger slice of the Middle East entertainment pie - poised to grow at 77% each year and touch revenues of over $4 bn by 2021.
Consumer expectations of multi-screen access, wide availability of content, and quality of the viewing experience, are driving the demand for video streaming platforms. Shifting consumption patterns point to a willingness of the younger, tech-savvy, population to pay for premium international and exclusive Arabic content, and for access to streaming big-ticket live sports and entertainment events.
Until the recent entry of Netflix and Amazon, regional players had the luxury of competing amongst themselves. To limit the impact on their user base, Middle East pay-tv operators and broadcasters are competing by forming partnerships with global broadcasters and telecom operators to release their own streaming services. This influx of global and local VOD providers will provide a boost to content creators and production studios in the region, as operators modernize workflows, and embrace new quality standards.
A focus on Arabic-language films and TV shows, along with a mixture of dubbed content from Hollywood and Bollywood seems to be the preferred content programming mix for Middle East audiences. Signaling their intention to focus on region specific content, the likes of Netflix are signing up local talent to produce Arabic language content.
The onus is now on the local VOD players such as Iflix, STARZ Play, MBC Shahid, OSN GO and beIN connect to develop strategies for creating compelling content offerings of their own.