Bringing the Starz to Play, On Demand
Danny Bates – Co-Founder and CMO of STARZPLAY, a pioneering company in the video on demand industry in the Middle Eastern region, talks about how in the dynamic and quickly growing industry of SVOD, they have managed to remain a top player and how they differentiate themselves from their competition to sustain their status as the top player.
There were already many players in the market for on-demand entertainment like Netflix, and Amazon also joined. What made you then launch STARZPLAY?
There was a gap in the market for a home-grown, regional option that provided exactly what viewers desired. A trailblazer in the field, STARZPLAY has fast become the MENA region’s leading platform for videos on demand. This was achievable only through a combination of a strong team, a unique approach to market our services, and providing unrivaled Arabic and English content that the consumers really want.
How is STARZPLAY different from the rest? What would you say is your USP?
We are a trendsetter in terms of our business model. What makes us different is that we have successfully established mutually beneficial partnerships with some of the region’s leading telecommunications companies and we offer flexible payment options through our consumers’ existing mobile or WiFi packages.
Content is the king in today’s world and that is what our focus is as our USP. Our sole purpose is to provide both, English and Arabic content, which is obviously important to our consumers here in the Middle East.
When did you start the company and how has it been going since then?
STARZPLAY was set up in Dubai in 2014 by a team of broadcast professionals. It has since become a true talent that is inspiring entrepreneurs across the region. Just in the Middle Eastern region, we currently have 1.3 million paying subscribers. In more recent times, the launch of India’s Lionsgate Play service was supported by us. The deal to use STARZPLAY’s home-grown technology is a compelling move forward for the business. The company’s proven competencies, both in offering all apps and connected devices as well as backend technology, have helped position the business as a partner of choice for new enterprises that seek to explore the potential offered by the dynamic nature of this industry.
While the UAE has been at the forefront of technological advancement, you are the first mover in your industry. What were some of the challenges you faced while launching your brand? Was acceptance by the UAE audience a big challenge too?
Just within the first five years of its existence, STARZPLAY is on the brink of being profitable, which is a remarkable feat for the industry where up-front costs tend to be heavy due to the required investment in content and the technology platform itself, not to mention everyday operating costs from people to premises.
It was not long ago when we were securing our first license when we realized that there was no existing category for SVOD. It just goes to show how much of a leader STARZPLAY truly is in being the first-ever start-up within the category in the region.
What does the future look like for STARZPLAY and what all new initiatives are you bringing to the forefront in the near future?
The industry of online subscription video is experiencing a growth phase, especially in the Middle Eastern region. The year on year growth in the region was around 45% in terms of paying subscriptions and revenues grew around 41% at the end of last year. The future predictions expect the market to grow and the paying subscriptions are estimated to reach 5 million.
This growth is a brilliant sign, not only for the industry but for STARZPLAY as well. The company’s focus will be on increasing shareholder value by continuing to grow and increase profitability at a steady rate. Saudi Arabia is a huge growth market with obvious potential in terms of both, demographics and scale, not to mention the ever occurring cultural developments in the kingdom. In the near future, we have some exciting developments in the pipeline and we also hope to enter the original Arabic production space to differentiate our service from our competitors.