2016 was a year of celebration for young MENA users hungry for video on demand (VOD) and online streaming services. Netflix entered our region and finally allowed us to uninstall our VPNs and watch the online streaming platform, unrestricted and with all the freedom we once dreamed of.
While Netflix may be the new kid in MENA’s VOD block, cool leather jacket and aviator sunglasses to match, there are several other platforms that were at your service before Netflix came around.
While some may have been inspired by the global streaming platform, unlike Netflix, they speak your language and know your culture.
So here’s a list of the non-Netflix, but Netflix-like, VOD aggregated content streaming platforms serving your online and mobile streaming desires.
Subscription cost: $7.99/month
Dubai-based startup Playco Entertainment partnered with Starz Play to launch Starz Play Arabic in early 2015. The platform, whose biggest market is in Saudi Arabia, offers viewers English Hollywood films, original content and kids programs, as well as Arabic language content pieces. Starz Play Arabic was the first US broadcasting network to localize their services to 17 countries in MENA in 2015, beating Netflix. It has a subscriber base of six-figures, according to chief commercial officer Danny Bates. In May, Samsung announced its smart TVs would provide Starz Play Arabia for its users for free for six months.
Subscription cost: $7.99/month
Founded in 2013, Icflix is available in three languages, Arabic, English and French. It offers a wider range variety of content that unlike some other platforms, caters to North African audiences with its French options. After one month of free trial, the cost for this content is $7.99 a month. In 2015, Icflix partnered with the United Nations to produce a series that would report on the efforts of the UN workers across the world to reduce human suffering. Last week, Icflix announced it would launch in Iraq in partnership with Asiacell, a mobile Iraqi telecom.
Subscription cost: Free
Based in Beirut and founded in 2011, ahead of several other VOD platform, Cinemoz offers viewers a variety of Arabic films, documentaries, and series. Cinemoz’s content remains free due to the Arab world’s lagging use of credit cards, according to Cinemoz founder and Chief Executive Officer Karim Safieddine. He told Lebanon’s Executive Magazine that the company is hoping to end 2016 with at least $1 million in revenues.
Subscription cost: $4.99/month
Formerly known as Twitvid, Telly made its entrance into the Middle East market in 2013. At the time it received $8 million in funding and acquired Dubai-based VOD service Sha Sha, dubbed by many to have been the ‘Netflix of the Middle East’. In 2014, the California-based startup launched its Telly Plus service for Middle East users, shortly after Icflix. Today, Telly’s subscription is $4.99/month. It may have lost its hype in the face of those services and its higher cost than other streaming platforms, but hey, it’s still there and available in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq and Yemen. They are producing their own original content with a focus on GCC audiences.
Subscription cost: Premium content, Shahid Plus, at $4.99/month
Perhaps the most popular VOD platform for Arabic content in the region, Middle East Broadcasting Center’s (MBC) Shahid offers a wide range of video content from soap operas, films, to content from MBC’s own channels like MBC Action to MBC Bollywood. Shahid recently launched a ‘Plus’ version for premium content, viewable for $4.99 a month.
What video streaming platforms do you use? Leave us a comment below!