Online streaming will never eliminate traditional TV, says StarzPlay CEO

StarzPlay CEO Maaz Sheikh says some formats including news and sports will continue to be television attractions
Maaz Sheikh, CEO, Starz Play.
Maaz Sheikh, CEO, Starz Play.


Online streaming services will not replace traditional television, according to the co-founder and CEO of video subscription platform StarzPlay.

Speaking to Arabian Business, Maaz Sheikh said some formats will continue to attract consumers to television.

“The behaviour shift is there. Will it completely eliminate traditional television? The answer is ‘no’, in my opinion,” he said.

"There are certain types of content that people still watch on traditional television, such as sports and news, and that will continue to remain on traditional linear television."

The Dubai-based firm, which launched in 2014, has doubled its revenue and subscription base every six months for the last three years.

It hopes to maintain its growth rate until ‘at least’ 2020.

StarzPlay currently holds 26% of the OTT (over the top or streaming) market share in the region compared to Netflix’s 16% share. It is ahead in revenue as well, with a 28% market share compared to Netflix’s 21%.

Sheikh credits its strong market position to partnerships in the region that localise the service and recognise consumer wants, adding that "where Netflix sees challenges, we see opportunities".

“For example, our telco partnerships give you mobile payment options. Moreover, if you are an eLife broadband customer in the UAE, you can access StarzPlay on the elife set up box. It is the same thing for Saudi telecom. And Netflix isn’t available on either of their networks. We are,” Sheikh said.

He added that the service recognises that customers today are still watching traditional television.

“So they might still be tuning into Dubai TV or Abu Dhabi TV until 8 or 9pm and when the kids go to sleep, they might want on demand content from StarzPlay. So combing that experience on one set up box without having to download an app is recognising these local requirements, and it makes us unique,” he said.

StarzPlay operates across the MENA region, where its strongest market remains the UAE, followed by Saudi Arabia, where the firm sees long term growth and opportunity. It is expected to launch in Pakistan in April, though there are no plans to expand further beyond MENA.

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