Starzplay is among a slew of regional and global streaming platforms jostling for position in the expanding Middle East market, in an effort to take advantage of low penetration, and cater to the large youth population in the region.
With a head start of over six years, streaming platform leader Netflix is foremost in the region, with Starzplay in second position. The company occupies the spot ahead of Amazon and Saudi-based MBC Group’s Shahid, according to reports.
DIsney+, which had earlier made its content available on OSN, is scheduled to launch in the MENA region next week. OSN is a regional pay TV and online streaming platform in the Middle east.
Sheikh mentioned that currently, Starzplay has approximately 2.2 million subscribers, up from 2 million at the end of 2021.
Starzplay to evaluate all options
He added that the investments and partnerships taking place at present will be enough to grow the business in the next two to three years, after which the company can be listed and taken public. He said that the company will evaluate all options, including a direct listing or an IPO.
Sheikh further said that given the current environment and business scenario, opting for a SPAC would not be a viable option. SPACs, or Special Purpose Acquisition Companies are companies that raise money to acquire private entities with the intention of taking them public. He added that after three years, the situation may warrant keeping all options open to the company.
While adding that it was premature to decide on a listing venue, Sheikh said that he did not find a strong enough reason for the company to list outside the region.
State investor for Abu Dhabi, ADQ, had announced in March this year that it would acquire a 57 percent stake in Starzplay, which has existing content partnerships with Abu Dhabi media. ADQ is the owner of e&, which owns telecom company Etisalat, and also owns Abu Dhabi Media.
Sheikh said that the deal would value Starzplay at USD420 million, and regulatory approvals are scheduled to take three to four months after the announcement in March.
Lionsgate’s stake in the company is expected to be reduced to 13 percent after the deal from the existing 30 percent. Other shareholders in the company include the founders and employees, SEQ Capital Partners, and General Electric Pension Trust.