Amazon targets Netflix, Starz dominance in the UAE
Amazon Prime’s video streaming category (or SVOD) is growing. By end of 2017, SVOD accounted for almost half of the $42 billion spent on home video spend worldwide. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Sign up with Amazon Prime and get to watch a whole lot of TV. The web streaming part of the business could be the surprise package now that the Prime membership service has gone live in the UAE.

Because unlike in e-retailing, Amazon Prime Video has a lot of catching up to do with Netflix and StarzPlay, which are the dominant in the UAE/Gulf web TV streaming space. If Amazon can convince enough subscribers to sign up or switch over to its platform, then Prime would have more than served its purpose.

According to Maaz Shaikh, CEO at StarzPlay, “Amazon Prime’s launch in the UAE highlights that the video streaming category (or SVOD) is attractive and growing. By end 2017, it accounted for almost half of the $42 billion spent home video spend worldwide. It is forecast that by 2021, SVOD will account for 70 per cent of spend with households taking multiple services.”

Dh140

is the annual Prime membership fee in the UAE

It won’t just be Amazon — “The whole fight from now on is who will get to be the second web TV app someone subscribes to other than Netflix,” said an industry source. “Because there will be Disney, Hulu and all the others who are going to come up with their own platforms. But when Amazon can tie-in web TV services to its shipping services, that can prove quite a combination.”

Amazon Prime Video has the content to go with it, with certified hits such as “The Man in the High Castle”, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ and “Missing”. It has also been adding content from Bollywood, and that’s always going to go down well with the Indian/south Asian diaspora here.

Prime membership is set at Dh16 a month or Dh140 for an annual one. Amazon Prime Video is also following a similar strategy to StarzPlay, in forming a close alliance with local telcos. This way, it gets to have its app-based services delivered on a telco-operated platform and widen its reach with audiences. In the UAE, it has such an alliance with du.

“Telco alliances are still big in the Gulf for web TV providers — apart from the reach, it helps smoothen the payments process when offered as one of the services on Etisalat or du,” said an industry source. “Because then everything gets billed as part of one monthly subscription.

“Global web TV giants will continue to remain on these platforms in these markets — the nature of the market and its subscribers demand requires them to do so.”

According to StarzPlay findings, nearly 30 per cent of entertainment seekers in the UAE subscribe to multiple streaming services. “This confirms the paramount trend that consumers follow content and are willing to subscribe to multiple platforms simultaneously in order to consume their favourite shows and movies,” said Maaz Shaikh, CEO.