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The Rise of Video Streaming In MENA

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The Rise of Video Streaming In MENA

Global custom research and analytics consultancy, PSB Research was commissioned by  Starzplay, the leading subscription video on demand (SVOD) service in the MENA region to study the SVOD trends during the period from January 2019 to May 2020. The study covered two key phases – the Covid-19 situation that led to a region-wide lockdown and Ramadan, the holy month when home-entertainment typically spikes in the region. Communicate attended a roundtable conference yesterday to learn about the findings from the study. Below are the findings –

The impact of Covid-19 follows the already extensive number of changes happening in society, especially in the way people across the region consume entertainment. The lockdown measures implemented following the coronavirus outbreak have been significant for SVOD services in MENA.

SVOD in the new reality

  • Starzplay recorded strong and sustained growth in the number of unique users from 2019, peaking at 141% during Covid-19.

  • The number of new subscribers across all markets increased by 58% between February and April 2020 and continued to maintain growth levels in May, higher than the pre-Covid months.
  • Subscribers consumed more content during Covid-19, with an increase of 50% in streaming hours per unique user.
  • English-language series was the most popular form of content consumed during Covid-19, among Starzplay subscribers.
  • The top three popular genres were action, comedy, and drama.
  • While the series format was most popular among users, accounting for 80% of the total viewing on average, the share of movie viewers reported an increase in March, April, and May 2020, compared to the previous five months.

SVOD growth trends during Ramadan

  • Streaming levels in Ramadan 2020 spiked with total consumption tripling over 2019.
  • During the first week of Ramadan, the number of hours streamed weekly increased by 241%. The second week saw an increase of 221%, the third week 218%, and the fourth week 236% over the same period in the previous year.
  • The total consumption of Starzplay content during Ramadan 2020 tripled in comparison to the same period in 2019.
  • Compared to 35 % hours streamed during March 2020 at night, during Ramadan, the proportion of hours streamed at night increased to 42%.
  • Afternoon continued to be the second popular time for users, with 22% of hours streamed during Ramadan, compared to 26% during March 2020.

  • Users binged mainly on comedy content during Ramadan. While 79% of all subscribers watched series during Ramadan, comedy series in English gained popularity at the expense of action/adventure, which, however, continued to be the most popular.
  • Drama series retained a steady 24% of total hours streamed during Ramadan.

Overall content consumption and trends

  • Arabic content doubled its share of total consumption reaching a peak in the early stages of the pandemic. The growth in popularity of Arabic language content is a testament to its potential on the platform.
  • Five times more Arabic content was streamed during the period of the Covid-19 lockdown than at the start of the year.
  • The balanced portfolio of genres in both English and Arabic is a key feature of the platform.
  • While the consumption of movies in English increased by 15 %, streaming of TV series in English increased by nearly 50%.
  • Streaming hours of comedy increased from 21 to 23 % as did drama from 20 to 23% and other genres gaining their share from 3 to 8%.
  • With the pandemic, the trend of watching Starzplay content on TV has intensified. The growth of TV usage during Covid-19 suggests that the platform increasingly competes with linear TV for the attention of viewers.
  • Despite being less than 30% of the total unique users, TV viewers represented nearly half the time spent watching Starzplay in January 2020.
  • In January 2019, when 55% of streaming hours were on mobile, it declined to 43% in January 2020, while the unique streaming hours increased from 33 to 45% on TV in January 2020 compared to the same month in 2019.
  • The proportion of viewing occurring at different times of the day has remained constant. Even during the Covid-19 period, with a huge increase in hours streamed, users broke up their viewing hours in a similar manner as before.
  • Evening viewers were the same 19% in January 2019 and March 2020, while nighttime viewers – who account for the majority of users, were 38% in Jan 2019 and 35% in March 2020. The bulk of viewing on the platform continues to take place during evening and nighttime.

  • Saudi Arabia, already the largest market of the platform, showed strong growth in 2019 in hours per user. The number of hours per user increased from 11.38 in January 2019 to 12.77 in January 2020, spiking to 18.06 hours in May.
  • The UAE is the largest growth market for the brand with users growing 70% year-on-year and hours growing nearly 80% with the number of hours by user increasing from 14.39 in January 2019 to 24.61 in May 2020.

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