As you’ll see this month's issue of Digital Broadcast Middle East is chock full of features, interviews and news about OTT and IPTV, as we thought it was about time to take a closer look at where the industry is heading. Despite the VoD sector being highly competitive, most of the leaders we spoke to struck an optimistic tone.
First, let’s turn our attention to iflix, which is this month’s cover story. It’s interesting to see that after the launch of icflix, Starz Play and Netflix in MENA, not to mention OTT platforms from the likes of MBC and OSN, another major player can still make a very good case for entering the market. Of course, much depends on differentiation, and the newest entrant into the MENA market is showing plenty of acumen in that area.
Speaking to the company’s regional head, Nader Sobhan, it was interesting to hear about the company’s success in Asia, where a price point of around $2.50-$4 per month, a broad library of content and a focus on curating and creating truly localised content, has helped the platform garner a base of more than 5 million subscribers in Asia, according to CNN.
As Christoph Firth, primcipal at AT Kearney, also reminded Digital Broadcast Middle East last month, the pay TV industry in the Middle East remains very small compared to international norms, so there is room for expansion of pay-TV services. Like Sobhan and Starz Play’s CEO Maaz Sheikh often say, the OTT players are not just competing against each other or against the linear channels, they are also competing against piracy. And as piracy remains so prevalent in this part of the world, any services that cater to a market need and help draw additional funds into the market should be welcomed. From speaking to executives representing a cross-section of the broadcast and production industry, I believe that this is becoming the mainstream view.
However, linear broadcasters concerned about the effects of so called “cord-cutting” may still worry about the emergence of new low cost OTTs. The best response is to keep investing in content which can ultimately be shown on any platform, but has value across linear and OTT. The ecosysten of the future is likely to include a variety of platforms, each producing and licensing content to eachother.
Another critical factor, aside from content, will be the ability of the platforms to understand and respond to the needs of their subscribers. Collecting, analysing and using data about subscribers in the right way will become ever more important in the coming years.