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Asian Streamer iflix Abruptly Exits Middle East

Asia-based streamer iflix is pulling out of the Middle East after entering the region with some fanfare two years ago in a partnership with Kuwait-based mobile and data services operator Zain.

Shuttering the streamer’s Iflix Arabia joint venture is taking place as disgruntled distributors with whom it has content deals complain about missing payments and unreturned emails and calls, sources confirmed to Variety.

“Iflix and its partner, Zain, are working together to complete the wind down of the operations in the Middle East to allow iflix to focus on its core markets in Southeast Asia,” the company said in a statement.

The statement did not give any other motive for the pullout.

In December iflix sold its Africa business, Kwese Iflix, to telco Econet Group claiming it was looking to double down on growth in Asia, which is its core market. “We are also working with all suppliers to finalize that wind down, which has been a complex process and apologize if some people are yet to be contacted, though expect this to happen in due course,” it added.

News of the pullout surfaced shortly after Iflix announced that it had completed its latest round of funding for more than $50 million by bringing in major institutional investor, Fidelity alongside strategic shareholders Hearst, Sky and EMC and said it is looking at a possible IPO.

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Iflix, which launched in Malaysia and the Philippines in 2015, set up Dubai-based Iflix Arabia in 2017 and rolled out the service in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan. In line with its policy of localized content production, that year the company made a splash with Arabic online original “Tough Luck,” a Cairo-set comedy of errors titled packed with local stars.

But though streamer subscribers in the Middle East are growing, analysts say top-tier services such as Starz Play, which is now the Middle East market leader ahead of Netflix and Shahid Plus, are getting more traction than lower-cost operations like iflix, which targeted a more downmarket customer base that is being eroded by increased piracy.

The decision to pull out from the Middle East was first reported by Deadline.

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