Al Jazeera’s beIN Paybox Moves Into Movies, Inks Five-Year Output Deal With Front Row

BeIN Media Group is also in talks to purchase Miramax, according to an unconfirmed report

Expanding from sports into movies, Al Jazeera-owned beIN Media group has inked a 5-year first-run output deal with prominent Dubai-based independent Middle East film distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment. BeIN’s move into movies is considered a game changer for the pay-TV landscape in the region.

A relatively low-profile sports Al Jazeera spinoff – albeit with muscle to control top Turkish paybox Digiturk and sports channels in France, Spain the U.S. and Australia – beIN’s entry into the Middle East movie arena steps up its competition with Orbit  Showtime Network OSN, until now the only paybox in the region with movies, original programming and general entertainment.

Significantly, OSN just re-upped its volume deal with Warner Bros., comprising movies and TV series, through 2020.

Meanwhile, BeIN Media Group is reportedly in talks to purchase Miramax, according to an unconfirmed unsourced recent Bloomberg report. The deal would give it a direct foothold in Hollywood. Miramax controls a library of about 700 films that includes “My Left Foot,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “The Piano.”

“As we launch our entertainment portfolio, it is imperative that we align with independent content aggregators,” beIN’s Deputy CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly said in a statement.

“We feel that Front Row is a great fit for beIN, “ he added. “We are confident that this partnership will be a major asset to the network’s expansion.”

Titles handled by Front Row that will beam in the Middle East exclusively on beIN include Japanese anime hit “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’,” (pictured), David Robert Mitchell’s hit chiller “It Follows,” Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,” Mel Gibson-starrer “Blood Father,” and James Franco’s upcoming “Zeroville.” Front Row recently went on an AFM buying spree, picking up more than twenty high-profile genre titles including John Hyams’ “Maniac Cop” remake, and Antonio Banderas-starrer “New Faith” by hot Latin American director Alejandro Brugues (“Juan of the Dead”). Genre fare plays well in the Middle East.

“Sports are the main driver to any subscription based network,” noted Hisham AlGhanim, General Manager of the Kuwait National Cinema Company, which is an active partner in Front Row.

“With the latest addition of movie channels, as well as general entertainment, we are sure it’s going to be only a matter of time before beIN becomes leader in the pay TV sector,” he boasted.

The rivalry between OSN and beIN will be interesting to watch. BeIn will be launching two channels, called  beIN Movies 1 and 2, shortly. There is some speculation this new landscape may even prompt the region’s free-to-air networks, like MBC Group, to rethink their free-to-air business model and enter the premium pay-TV arena as well.

“We understand beIN’s ambition to position itself as the leading regional entertainment platform and we are committed to collaborating with beIN on this journey,” said Gianluca Chakra, Managing Partner of Front Row Filmed Entertainment. He called the agreement “probably one of the biggest deals in Front Row’s history” and “the beginning of a long term relationship based on mutual trust and benefit which will spawn many more ventures that are already being planned with beIN.”

Launched in 2003, Front Row currently acquire between 90-120 titles a year and are absolute leaders in the Arabic language titles. They  boasts a film library of over 875 pics.

Earlier this year Front Row sealed a deal with iTunes under which it will act as an aggregator for independent Arabic and Bollywood distribution companies who aim to make their titles available across the Middle East and also worldwide.

Set up as an Al Jazeera spin-off in 2014, Doha-based beIN Media Group has more than 3o channels worldwide aired mostly across the Middle East and North Africa, but also in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.


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