As the region eases its COVID-19 induced lockdown enabling social engagements in malls and other public spaces, UAE’s streaming portals are happy to maintain their status quo attained during the intense lockdown.
Most of the streaming portals have not yet witnessed any immediate, considerable decrease in their viewership despite lesser restrictions allowing more people to step outside. Even as offices and malls open, these avenues are still reporting consistent numbers of minutes consumed comparable to numbers that were spiked in Mid-April.
Maaz Sheikh, CEO of StarzPlay has stated that the expected drop is something the streaming service providers can manage in the long-run.
“Yes, there was some relaxation from the peak that was mid-April. But this easing will only happen when consumption has increased 4-fold compared to the January figures. At the moment it is still about 3.5 times January. [Even if full social and social activity resumes], we don’t see any moderation that will bring streaming numbers below 2.5 times/2.75 times the average of The January.”
StarzPlay has the stats at hand to support the argument as its “paid” subscribers grew to 1.7 million in the Middle East at the end of the first quarter, from about 1 million at the end of 2019. The average daily consumption per user is a substantial 110 minutes (compared to 35 minutes in January), which according to market sources would be the prevailing average for the industry in the UAE/Gulf markets.
Other Benefactors of COVID-19 lockdown
Online food was a clear beneficiary, so was everything which has digital attached to it, which helped with remote work and schooling. Manufacturers of hand sanitizers and face masks have not had better quarters in years and it’s the same with video streaming apps as well.
Every other competitor brand has benefited from the trend. “An established brand like Netflix didn’t have any problems with brand or content awareness – it’s a powerhouse,” Sheikh stated.
“The industry as a whole has benefited from the last three months, although some players have benefited disproportionately. But especially during Ramadan, consumption for all increased.”
“What we’ve done for the last three months has been to raise awareness of our brand and its content– something we’ve been working on over the past five years. This awareness will endure.”
StarzPlay renders its services across the MENA region where UAE remains its strongest market followed by Saudi Arabia.