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Starz Play plans African, Asian OTT expansion

Starz Play 7 Day TrialOver-the-top service Starz Play is planning to move outside of the Middle East and North Africa as part of a 2017 expansion plan.

Speaking exclusively to Digital TV Europe, Starz Play Arabia CEO and co-founder, Maaz Sheikh, said that the company plans to bring Starz Play to Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia next year.

Sheikh said that in these regions it would look to target specific countries, rather than launch a Pan-Asian or Pan-African offering.

“We’re not looking to go into South Africa, but we’re looking at Sub-Saharan Africa. Within Sub-Saharan Africa we’re looking at the English-speaking block of countries and within that we are trying to zero in on select countries and markets,” he said.

In Asia Shiekh said Starz Play would look to launch in select countries where there is space to grow the SVOD market and where competition is not already overly high from Netflix and local operators.

He added that talks with partners are already underway and that more specific details will follow next year.

Asked about whether Starz Play would also move into Europe, Shiekh said that there were no plans for this – “at least in the immediate future”.

“We think, for us, given where we are in Dubai, we see some low-hanging fruit in markets next door to us. We prefer to focus on these markets – at least for the next two years,” he said.

Starz’s international subscription on-demand platform made its worldwide debut in MENA in April 2015, launching in 17 territories throughout the region.

The Starz-branded offering was developed with Parsifal Entertainment Group and is operated by Playco Entertainment, a start-up headquartered in Dubai.

Starz Play Arabia offers a range of Western movies and series, including Starz Originals and content from studios like Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony, Universal and CBS. In April this year, it also added Arabic content to complement its Hollywood fare.

Recent research from Digital TV Research predicts that the MENA region will have 19.59 million paying subscription video-on-demand subscribers by 2021, and that Starz Play will account for 1.39 million of these, or 7.1% of the market.

Stay tuned for DTVE’s full interview with Maaz Sheikh which will appear online later today.