BLME’s Alvin Thomas rounds up the best video streaming services that you can currently subscribe to in the GCC.
An unlikely evolution of radio to online radio services and newspapers to online websites – the onset of digital media has enabled us to consume content in ways that were considered inconceivable only a decade ago.
Megabytes of data consumption quickly turned into gigabytes and terabytes – and the amount of data we guzzle today can be deemed mind-boggling when compared with our data consumption rates from only a few years ago.
This has resulted in the rise of the internet penetration rate – from 40 per cent in 2015 to 70.8 per cent in 2020 – in the Middle East as per data compiled by the United Nations Population Division.
The great data boom that we now witness can be attributed to the transformation of tried-and-tested technologies; such as the evolution of traditional television to online and over-the-top media streaming.
Below is a list of our top five internet-breaking streaming contenders that serve us with a variety of television content:
An undisputed winner across all fronts in the streaming game, Netflix harbours the largest chunk of local and expat audiences in the region. From 90’s TV shows to original Netflix specials, the streaming platform has garnered over 183 million subscribers (as per Netflix) globally and a 19 per cent penetration rate in the Europe, Middle East and African markets. While content can be region-locked and sparse in comparison with other countries in the GCC, the overall consumption of content via Netflix had risen by 105 per cent over two years to reach 47.4 million subscribers in the region.
Subscription rate: 50% off for first two months. Starting from RO3.08
Must-watch list: Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Emily in Paris, Orange Is The New Black
Amazon Prime Video
Having officially launched its services in the UAE and other parts of the GCC in 2019 (though content was open to viewers via the amazon website), Amazon Prime Video waltzes into the region’s video streaming skirmish a tad late but with a galore of original content up its sleeve to make up for lost time. With exclusive productions such as The Grand Tour and Homecoming ringing in cult followers, and foreign language productions serving up a wider range of options than, say, Netflix, the streaming platform has gained steam and eaten into Netflix subscription rates; albeit, marginally in the MENA region.
Subscription rate: 7-day free trial. Starting from RO1.15 per month for six months (introductory offer).
Must-watch list: The Grand Tour, Homecoming, Bosch
Number one in the Middle-East and North African (MENA) region according to a study conducted by IHS Markit Survey 2019, Starz Play brings with it a wealth of Arabic content and classic television shows (think F.R.I.E.N.D.S and the like). Its pre-Netflix-era stature sets it as an industry leader in the GCC; though, its collection of original shows are significantly limited than what you would expect from Netflix and Prime Video.
As per SimilarWeb, an independent website analytics company, over 34 per cent of the brand’s market is dominated by Saudi Arabia and 16.29 per cent comes from the United Arab Emirates.
Subscription rate: 7-day free trial. Starting from RO4 per month.
Must-watch list: The Rook, The Office, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Sweetbitter
Think HBO, Comedy Central, and Disney Channel in the GCC… think OSN. The legacy paid-television service provider made a brisk entry into the over-the-top media services industry to create a thoroughfare for those looking for quality TV shows online. OSN Streaming puts the best of television – think Game of Thrones, Disney Plus Originals and the like – into your smartphone or laptop. Moreover, it also bridges the gap for those looking for one-stop shop for Live TV and online streaming packages.
Subscription rate: 7-day free trial. Starting from RO4 per month (for streaming only).
Must-watch list: Sonic the Hedgehog, The Undoing, Star Wars – The Mandalorian
There’s a lot to like about Apple’s all-new premium digital television service. From its ever-expanding directory of originals to its alluring payment packages, Apple TV+ may just be the next best thing in OTT-media services. And if our sources are correct, the company will be funneling a total of US$6 billion into exclusive TV shows, documentaries, and other originals. As per data that has been made available by Apple, their streaming services may be among the quickest growing platforms in the industry; however, market analysts say that the numbers could be overestimated due to the free year-long subscriptions that were rolled out when customers purchase Apple products.
Subscription rate: 7-day free trial. Starting from RO1.92 per month.
Must-watch list: Long Way Up, Tiny World, The Morning Show, Greyhound