MENA streamer Shahid to expand non-English-language content as AVOD grows

Saudi Arabia-based streamer Shahid is looking to expand its non-English language programming as it experiences strong growth across its AVOD offering.

Natasha Matos-Hemingway

Shahid moved around 85% of its content from behind its SVOD paywall last year as part of a strategy to refocus efforts on its AVOD service, but the streamer’s chief commercial & marketing officer Natasha Matos-Hemingway said the impact on its subscription business had been less than expected.

Matos-Hemingway, who was keynoting at the Media & Entertainment Leaders Summit here in London, said that AVOD viewership had grown 38% between 2022 and H1 2023 following the shift, while SVOD growth had increased by a multiple of 3.4 between 2020 and H1 2023.

She added that the refocusing was a “bold” move but that the decision had allowed Shahid, which is owned by Middle East giant MBC, to tap deeper into markets with more cost-conscious consumers.

“With the relaunch of AVOD we expected it to have an impact on SVOD and we were surprised that it didn’t really, but that was because we were targeting a different audience with a new proposition.

“We have been able to target audiences we weren’t previously speaking to very much, especially in North Africa where unfortunately affordability is more of an issue,” she added, with Morocco, Egypt and Iraq driving consumption numbers.

Shahid has been ramping up its originals offering over recent years, with shows such as Rashash and Egyptian series Tash-Alawad, but Matos-Hemingway said remakes and international series are also of interest.

The streamer has already remade Turkish series with Stiletto and Al Thaman, and the Shahid exec said non-English language shows are also in demand.

“If you go onto our platform we have content from Portugal, Italy – it definitely isn’t just English language. The most important point for us is that we understand our audience so if we’re partnering on a show then we want someone who is additive.

“If there is a piece of content then we might localise it, or not, depending on what it is and if it can help grow our audience.”

Matos-Hemingway added that players in MENA are not “cash cows tons of money to spend”, explaining that Shahid is open to “very innovative” partnerships to get shows off the ground.

The exec added that while Shahid has grown its FAST offering to around 50 channels, it is being seen as a “complementary” offering, albeit driving aorund one third of all viewership across the company’s services.

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