The year 2016 is poised to become a watershed in terms of Arab content gaining more eyeballs thanks to online subscription services, which are a congenial conduit in a region where two-thirds of the population is under 30.
In January, Netflix launched in Saudi Arabia, where movie theaters have been banned for decades.Initial offerings in the region include racy British teen TV show “Skins.”
Netflix does not include much Arabic content, but topper Ted Sarandos, speaking via Skype at the Dubai fest, vowed that’s destined to change as subscribers grow.
Meanwhile, a pioneering platform called MoviePigs, dedicated to distributing a wide range of indie Arab cinema in North America and Europe, is set to launch this year. The innovative aspect of Movie Pigs, which was founded by Egyptian entrepreneur Perihan Abou-Zeid and backed by U.S. tech investor Dave McClure, is that it’s a two-sided platform that also enables Arab directors to crowdfund their projects.
In 2015, Starz beat Netflix to the punch, launching its Starz Play Arabia OTT subscription service across 17 territories in the Middle East and North Africa, marking the first Starz-branded service outside the U.S. The presence in parts of the Middle East of other OTTs such as IcFlix, Telly and OSN Play indicate that the market is ripe.
The two top subscription services in the MENA region are Starz Play and IcFlix. Besides Hollywood and Bollywood fare, IcFlix offers Arabic films.
— Nick Vivarelli