Fox Networks is to launch a new TV streaming service in the Middle East and North Africa in partnership with a Saudi media group.
The biggest broadcaster of the Middle East, MBC, has been chosen by this subsidiary of 21st Century Fox as its partner to stream Fox Plus, the company announced,
MBC’s Shahid Plus platform would be used for broadcasting Fox’s streaming service to viewers in 24 countries of the region. It can already been viewed in Southeast Asia and some areas of Latin America
Six categories of English-language entertainment from Fox Plus can be accessed by viewers for a monthly subscription fee of $4.99. The series would also include some Arabic content from Shahid Plus in addition to the likes of drama, kids TV and the National Geographic channel.
This deal of Fox was preceded by some bad blood between Saudi Arabia and international media companies over the alleged killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by suspected Saudi agents.
As a mark of protest, sponsorship from a huge investment conference in Riyadh last month which was named the “Davos in the desert”, was pulled out by Fox Business along with a number of other global media networks. But the inconclusiveness of who was ultimately responsible for the murder of Khashoggi has also allowed a number of investors and companies to provide some rope to the kingdom.
Earlier this year, during a series of incidents in a crackdown on corruption, the control of MBC was taken over by the Saudi government. According to media reports, the crackdown had resulted in the arrest of MBC Chairman Waleed Al Ibrahim, among hundreds of other businessmen of the country. After his release from prison, he was left with just a 40 per cent stake in the company and its management control and his title as chairman.
There were no comments available from Fox Networks.
There is rising competition for the regional market comprising of 300 million people. Main players who are trying to get a toe hold in the region include the likes of Netflix, Malaysia’s Iflix, and Dubai’s Starz Play.
The existing platform of MBC will now have thousands of hours of additional streaming content with this deal.
“Streaming is going to be a major disruptor of consumption of content,” said Sanjay Raina, general manager at Fox Networks Group.”It’s very important as a content company to have a foot in the door into that world.”
There has been growth in streaming services in the regions because of better broadband capabilities, Raina said. However there are challenges with the payment systems. He said that the rate of usage of credit card use in some parts is still “near zero”.
According to IHS Markit, it was only last year, that Middle East and North Africa surpassed one million in terms of the number of online video subscriptions. It has been forecast that the industry will grow at an annual rate of 34 per cent and by 2022 will touch a total of 5 million.
“New services are coming up everyday. We have just seen the tip of the iceberg,” Raina said.
“Linear television platforms need to reinvent themselves, because a young consumer today has a choice, on mobile, on laptop, anywhere,” Raina said.
(Adapted from TheHill.com)