The rising importance of online video among consumers is a given. Consumers in the MENA region can look forward to an unprecedented number of platforms to choose from in the near future, as the media and entertainment giants ramp up the global battle for viewers. Here in the MENA region, a 300 million strong area with a huge young population represents a prime battleground for the OTT players, as they woo subscribers to their on-demand content offerings.
Hot on the heels of Netflix and Amazon, Apple is reportedly planning to give its planned TV subscription service the kind of massive global rollout it typically reserves for high-profile product releases like the iPhone. Apple has revealed plans to launch the service in more than 100 countries, as it takes on Netflix and Amazon Prime who have 40 per cent and 22 per cent of global market share respectively. This gap is more or less similar in the Middle East & Africa region (25 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively).
Media companies that once sold programs to Netflix for hundreds of millions of dollars are now building their own on-demand services to compete head on. Disney and AT&T are each planning to introduce ambitous new direct to consumer services next year, after completing takeovers of media companies worth a combined $160 billion.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings suggests he is not worried about the competition. “That’s going to make it exciting for us, great for consumers and incredible for producers,’’ he said. “The game is on.’’
Netflix upended the economics of pay TV by offering customers thousands of programs on-demand for a low monthly fee as compared to multichannel cable or satellite bundles. By investing heavily in original content so customers have an almost infinite amount of content viewing options, Netflix is also changing widely held industry notions of content preferences around the world.
Fadi Ismail, who features in this month’s cover story tells us that interest in watching non-English language shows and films is at an all-time high across the world, a key factor prompting the MBC Group’s move to launch MBC Studios. Ismail believes some credit for the increased interest in subtitled content goes to Netflix for changing perceptions and the audience’s tastes for foreign launguage shows and films.
Subtitling international content is today much more common in regions which primarily engaged with foreign content in dubbed form. Bollywood content too, is popular with the local Middle Eastern population in dubbed and subtitled formats, and Indian media groups like Zee and Eros have rolled out OTT services in the region.
According to a study on optimal localisation of international content by Parrot Analytics, younger demographics are more likely to watch subtitled shows. The study also showed that in places like Mexico upto 44% of viewers watch subtitled foreign language content.
Netflix crime drama Narcos has been possible the most prominent example of the subtitling trend in localised content. Although many scenes are entirely in Spanish and subtitled in English, Narcos became a top-ranked show in markets like France, Italy and Poland.
Netflix drama Narcos is the most prominent example of the subtitling trend