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UAE video streaming service Starzplay adds 600,000 subscribers so far this year

UAE video streaming service Starzplay adds 600,000 subscribers so far this year

The increase was driven by user growth in Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the Covid-19 period

Vikings on STARZPLAY[6] copy

UAE-based video streaming service Starzplay reported a strong rise in subscribers and consumption hours this year, when lockdowns were imposed across the region to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The number of subscribers has grown by 600,000, from 1.25 million at the end of 2019 to 1.85 million at present, confirmed Starzplay CCO Danny Bates.

The increase was driven by user growth in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, specifically during the months of April and May.

Unique users grew 141 per cent during April alone, when the Covid-19 crisis peaked in the region, according to a new study by Starzplay.

The UAE emerged as the largest growth market, with users growing 70 per cent year-on-year and number of hours by user increasing nearly 80 per cent.

Subscribers also consumed more content during Covid-19, with an increase of 50 per cent in streaming hours per unique user.

Prior to the pandemic, Starplay users averaged around 12 hours per month in 2019. That increased to 13 hours in February 2020, 15 hours in March and 17 hours in April. It reached a peak of 19 hours in May, during the Ramadan period.

“Covid-19 has fundamentally altered how entertainment is consumed in the region, as elsewhere across the world,” said Maaz Sheikh, CEO of Starzplay.

The platform also observed that English content was most popular on the site, with comedy series garnering the strongest interest.

Some of the most popular series on the platform during this year have been The Bag Bang Theory, The Office and Grey’s Anatomy.

“During these difficult times, people are looking for more of an escape through comedies rather than action and adventure,” Sheikh said.

The study also found that Arabic content doubled its share of total consumption, reaching a peak in the early stages of the pandemic.

On average, the hours streamed in Arabic increased from just about 5 per cent in January 2019 to about 10 per cent in January 2020. Five times more Arabic content was streamed during Covid-19 months than at the start of the year.

“We are working to do more original content – there is strong demand for Arabic content, especially for our core base of youth aged between 18-35,” said Khaled Benchouche, SVP of Programming and Acquisitions at Starzplay.

“We had started working with Image Nation Abu Dhabi [for an original], but we had to slow production [due to the pandemic]. We will have the first original production by the end of the second quarter of 2021 and more will follow,” he said.

Benchouche also admitted that the lifting of lockdowns worldwide has led to reduced consumption as well as increased churn. “But our monthly engagement remains high and the percentage of churn at Starzplay is lower compared to our competitors, so our consumers are engaged and happy,” he added.

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