OSN has deepened its alliance with HBO, as the former builds up its curated content. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: When it comes to web streaming, it’s no longer about which OTT platform you have subscribed to. Rather, it is about the show you are watching right now.

Because viewers are more likely to stick with a particular platform based on the latest show they have put up. Then – without a second thought - switch to another platform, another show…

You get the picture, right?

This is the viewing landscape OTT channels have to find their way through, more so since 2022 as the intensity of the competition heated up against Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

Where subscriber numbers are based on the number of episodes a particular show might have than anything else.

Joe Kawkabani, CEO at the Dubai-headquartered entertainment platform OSN, tries to make sense of these viewer habits. And he believes he’s got a fair wind of how to go about it.

Loyalty from subscribers – is it becoming an extremely difficult trait to hold on to?

Yes, it is. There is a systemic issue in the industry. But that’s what you get when you have a very diverse offering (across platforms).

If you're talking specifically about streaming, obviously, yes, there is a lack of loyalty. Because we don't see the same in our linear business, which is about pay-TV.

Streaming globally suffers from being very competitive. And then, clients have the option to opt in and opt out of different services at different points in time. That basically dictates how we devise our strategy - to build a sustainable business even in such an environment.

We do not focus on market share because there are many different ways where you can achieve this quickly - and then lose it all too quickly.

What we as OSN focuses on is effectively acquiring direct customers - and engaging them constantly. The solution - and the trick - lies in making that engagement happen.

In your case, that means being a curated content provider, whether that’s HBO or Paramount?

I think this is where we are offering clients real value for money. Because we have partnerships with the biggest US studios and global studios. We work with the likes of Warner Bros. Discovery, HBO, Paramount, Universal (which has a service in the US called Peacock), and so on.

All of these are different services elsewhere, whereas with OSN, they come as part of the umbrella. You can find all of them in one subscription, which I believe is value for money. And solves a little bit that loyalty issue we keep talking about.

But you had Disney+ too at one point of time. Can you ensure the others will stay on and not launch their own streaming platforms to UAE and Middle East audiences?

Disney+ is not part of us because they have their own streaming service. But our old linear business – the pay-TV side of things - still carry Disney content.

Warner Bros. Discovery is one of the largest studios, and HBO remains probably one of the most sought after for content. What we did was basically bring HBO into an exclusive, multi-year deal with us. That will protect us against them suddenly coming in with their own direct competition.

A still from 'Succession'
Coming back for more of ‘Succession’. OSN has consolidated its partnership with HBO . Image Credit: AP

Is this the same formula you are having with other content providers?

We already have such relationships with others that are multi-year, and we will be announcing more as we go on. That strengthens our position as having best-in-class, must-see premium content. I believe it is a position not challenged at this stage.

So, less of OSN coming up with its own content?

Creating and curating content are two different things. What the customer is looking for is content that is unique and engaging, and he needs to be served with a bouquet of that. We are looking around the world for these big deals, acquiring from different independent providers, whether it’s Turkish content or Korean.

But we do add to our own library and creating originals that basically fill the gap in Arabic language premium content. We have an interesting slate of programming for the next few years, working very closely with the region’s talented creators.

Which basically puts us in an interesting position where we can show the best of the West, but also supported by Arabic language originals.

Are you more the ‘Sopranos’ sort of fan? Or one all for ‘Succession’?
In terms of personal preferences, I’m a massive fan of ‘The White Lotus’. And also, I really have taken to ‘Succession’. Can’t wait for to watch Season 4, which will launch in the next few weeks.