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In-depth study on streaming video in MENA reports 141% growth in number of unique users by STARZPLAY

  • Both carryover and new subscribers showed steady growth intensifying during COVID-19
  • STARZPLAY grew its user base by over 40% during 2019; growth took off with the active user base more than doubling from January 2019 to April 2020
  • Series consistently represent about 80% of total viewing
  • The total consumption of STARZPLAY content during Ramadan 2020 more than tripled compared to the same period in 2019
  • UAE is the largest growth market with users increasing 70% year-on-year and the number of streaming hours by user growing 80%

STARZPLAY, the leading subscription video on demand (SVOD) service in the MENA region, reported a robust and durable growth of 141 percent in the number of unique users during April 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis peaked in the region, according to a new study on ‘The Rise and Rise of Streaming Video in the MENA Market.’

Conducted by PSB Research, a leading global insights consultancy, the study examined SVOD trends over a period from January 2019 to May 2020, covering two key phases – the COVID-19 situation that led to lockdowns and Ramadan, when home-entertainment typically spikes in the region. The findings were presented in a detailed report launched today at a virtual media briefing by Maaz Sheikh, Co-founder, and CEO of STARZPLAY, attended by senior officials of the company.

The report presents streaming video trends under three broad divisions: SVOD in the New Reality (following the COVID-19 crisis), SVOD Growth Trends during Ramadan, and Overall Content & Consumption Trends. Each offers compelling insights on how the entertainment landscape has been transformed by STARZPLAY, a homegrown platform that records year-on-year and durable growth in its number of unique users.

The UAE is the largest growth market for STARZPLAY with users growing 70 percent year-on-year and the number of hours by user increasing nearly 80 percent. The nation also has one of the lowest ratios of new subscribers to carry-over users even during COVID-19, a strong indicator of growth via retention and the future potential of the market in addition to an increase in STARZPLAY content consumption on TV during COVID-19.

Maaz Sheikh said the independently conducted study by PSB provides new and informed insights on how the region has adapted to streaming video and the growing popularity of STARZPLAY’s balanced portfolio of content, both in Arabic and English.

“COVID-19 has fundamentally altered how entertainment is consumed in the region, as elsewhere across the world,” said Maaz Sheikh. “As the region’s pioneering and homegrown SVOD platform, we are honored to be at the forefront in this truly revolutionary growth. Our year-on-year growth is led by our focus on meeting the aspirations of our subscribers by offering content that is truly relevant to them, and by deploying breakthrough technology such as our advanced recommendation engines. The findings will enable us to hone our content and offering further and assure greater value to our subscribers.”

David James, Senior Vice President of PSB, added: “This comprehensive study of streaming video trends gives us a unique understanding of entertainment choices among consumers in MENA during COVID-related quarantines.  The extensive data made available by STARZPLAY allowed us to evaluate changing consumption patterns among their subscribers – both new and carryover – to better understand emerging realities in SVOD consumption.”

In top findings, the study observes that STARZPLAY has recorded strong and sustained growth in the number of unique users from 2019, peaking at 141 percent during the peak of COVID-19, when severe travel restrictions and lockdowns were enforced in key markets. Between January 2019 and April 2020, STARZPLAY’s active user base increased by 141 percent, the growth gaining traction from January 2020 (42 percent), February (41 percent), March (89 percent), and April (141 percent).

The direct influence of COVID-19 on STARZPLAY’s user base was also evaluated. The number of new subscribers across all markets increased by 58 percent between February and April 2020, and continued to maintain growth levels in May, higher than the pre-COVID months.

Subscribers also consumed more content during COVID-19, with an increase of 50 percent in streaming hours per unique user. Prior to the pandemic, STARZPLAY users averaged around 12 hours per month in 2019. However, consumption increased to 13 hours in February 2020, 15 hours in March, and 17 hours in April. More of its subscribers watched STARZPLAY content in May 2020 too, recording a peak of 19 hours, coinciding with Ramadan.

The key finding on consumption trends during Ramadan is that while Ramadan 2019 had the lowest usage by STARZPLAY subscribers during the year, 2020 saw streaming levels spike. A week-on-week comparison of the four weeks Ramadan in 2019 and 2020, indicate a significant surge in consumption of STARZPLAY content by its users. The total consumption of STARZPLAY content during Ramadan 2020 more than tripled compared to the same period in 2019.

In overall content and consumption trends, STARZPLAY reinforced its position as a primetime player in entertainment with the bulk of viewing taking place during evening and night. Further, though English content remains the dominant choice, 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 has increased from just about 5 percent in January 2019 to about 10 percent in January 2020. Five times more Arabic content was streamed during COVID-19 months than at the start of the year.