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UAE streamer Starzplay is ‘not chasing Netflix’

Video-on-demand service Starzplay is capitalising on its sports and Arabic content offering to attract subscribers and increase revenues. 

The UAE-based platform was acquired by e& subsidiary E-vision and Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ last year. It has 2.9 million subscribers across 19 countries in the Mena region and Pakistan.

Competitors such as Netflix and Dubai-based rival Shahid are strong players, and Starzplay has decided to carve its own niche.

“Chasing Netflix is a fool’s errand,” said Maaz Sheikh, CEO and co-founder of Starzplay. “We are different through our sports offerings. We are also different in that Netflix is only available through credit cards in the region. We have integrated with 25 mobile operators so people can sign up through their phone numbers.”

Another streaming rival, Disney, plans to raise the price of its streaming services and has closed operations in some countries. 

Hollywood strikes are threatening the production and availability of new content on both the silver screen and streaming platforms. Sheikh said this offers an opportunity for regional content creators.

“Hollywood content output is going down and being scaled back,” he said. “That puts pressure on us to create more Arabic content locally and do it in a way that it replaces that Hollywood content.” 

The streaming platform recently launched Starzplay Fantasy Sport, in which players can make predictions around live Serie A matches and other regional leagues. 

This is Starzplay’s “first step” in esports and gaming, an industry that is expected to reach $6 billion by 2027, according to Dubai Multi Commodities Center.

“Gaming and esports is a massive industry globally, and especially in this region – bigger than pure media,” Sheikh said. 

“The opportunity for platforms like us is to drive cross-platform engagement,” he added. “If people can play the games on our gaming platform, which in turn drives consumption and engagement on our (streaming) platform, that is an ideal scenario.” 

Watch the full video interview to find out more about Starzplay’s profitability strategy