STARZ President: standalone OTTs have edge in battle for MENA

IBC, Amsterdam

IBC, Amsterdam

At IBC, Amsterdam

Maaz Sheikh, President of MENA OTT STARZ Play Arabia, thinks a standalone OTT service provider is best placed to become the dominant regional force for MENA OTT.

Of course, he would think that, wouldn’t he! Nonetheless, Sheikh, speaking at IBC 2015 this morning, on a hefty panel also featuring leading execs from the likes of Sky, Discovery and ABC, made a strong case arguing for the inherent advantages OTTs such as STARZ have competing against established broadcasters.

“We estimate that the MENA OTT market to grow $700-800 million US,” he told the audience at Amsterdam’s RAI (a figure that sits roughly in the middle of the more lavish and modest estimates for the region).  “When you look at the traditional broadcasters being free to air or pay-TV, one of the biggest strengths they have is the brand — that trust with the consumer and that relationship… but at the same time existing operators and broadcasters have to deal with the risks of cannibalising their own revenue.”

New OTT players face challenges of their own. Sheikh conceded. Besides the issue of brand trust and identity, securing content rights remains extremely difficult. Ultimately, however, the standalones have the edge due to the nature of the region they are looking to dominate.

“MENA is still a very complex market,” he explained. “You’re looking at 21 countries in one market with fairly fragmented consumer preferences, so creating that really personalised service for each consumer is what it’s going to boil down to, and having the right technology to enable that and having the right digital content in place to be able to deliver that personalised service.”

Maaz Sheikh will be appearing at TV Connect MENA (2-3 November 2015, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai)

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