Is OTT Sports already “Live” in Middle East?
The Streaming Lab - MENA #003
Hey 👋 - Yann here.
This is the 3rd issue of The Streaming Lab - MENA
Each Saturday, I send out one tip to better understand the OTT market in Middle East & North Africa.
Enjoy the show.
This week, I’m looking at the sports initiatives coming from local OTT players in Middle East.
Let’s start listing the sports available on local OTT services: Football, Cricket, Rugby, Golf, Basketball, Handball, Volleyball, Baseball, Tennis, Padel, Futsal, Cycling, Running, Equestrian, Camel racing, Mountain Bike, Sailing, Table Tennis, Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, MMA, Wrestling, Shooting, Pool, Motorsports, Motorcycle racing, Powerboat racing, eScooter, eSports and more.
Is OTT sports already “Live” in Middle East?
Definitely yes. But let’s dig a bit deeper.
Where? Pure sports platforms or Entertainment services with sports packages
What? Sports content coming from local or international leagues
How? Live events & channels or On Demand
What’s next? The impact of sports content on the OTT product roadmap
Pure sports platforms or Entertainment services with sports packages?
Pure OTT sports players are services offering sports content only.
Some are multi-sports: AD Sports with Football, Running, Tennis, Sailing, Equestrian, Powerboat racing or MMA. Or beIN Connect with Football, Basketball, Handball, Tennis, MotoGP, Golf and much more.
Other services promote a single sport: UFC Arabia with MMA or FightClub Live with fighting disciplines only: Boxing, Taekwondo, Kickboxing and Wrestling.
Shahid, StarzPlay, Awaan, Jawwy TV, TenTime, Switch TV, TOD and soon Smashi are Entertainment streaming services with Films, TV Series and Kids content AND sports content. Sports can be part of an entry-level plan or as an Add-on package.
Sports content coming from local or international leagues?
There are already many local sports leagues available on OTT services: MBS league on Shahid (Football - Saudi Arabia), Dubai racing on Awaan (Horse Racing - UAE), Qatar Stars League on TOD ( Football - Qatar), Volleyball, Handball and Futsal leagues soon on Smashi (UAE). The list is much longer and will grow in the coming months.
When it comes to international leagues, beIN SPORTS played a major role in the distribution of premium content in Middle East & North Africa. The sports TV channels network launched a companion App, beIN Connect, in 2014 and released a standalone OTT service earlier this year: TOD. It combines Films and TV Series with an amazing list of premium sports: Premier League, LaLiga Santander, Ligue 1 Uber Eats, UEFA Champions League, ATP, NBA, etc.
Recently, SVOD players from GCC also launched powerful initiatives:
Etisalat secured the rights to broadcast cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup across MENA and announced a distribution partnership with StarzPlay last year
Shahid became the first Arabic streaming platform in the region to bring Formula 1 to sports fans in the region
It’s vital to bring international sports content to the region. But the power of OTT is also the ability to expand the reach of local sports leagues. They can now launch their own platforms in a very short time, at an affordable price, or enhance their distribution strategy with local and international streaming services.
Live events & channels or On Demand
For many years, Linear was the main distribution method for sports content in the region. Today, most of local sports channels are also available on OTT services.
beIN distributes its channels on beIN Connect and TOD, and this includes the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Abu Dhabi Sports operates its own AVOD platform. End users can also find AD Sports Asia 1 & 2, AD Sports 1, 2, 3 & 4 and Yas on several OTT services: Switch TV, StarzPlay, and others.
Switch TV offers 30 Live sports channels on a subscription-based pricing model. Criclife is an attractive bouquet thanks to game or session-based plans.
But On Demand remains the main delivery method for AVOD & SVOD business models. And it explains why games replay and programs catchup are popular in the region.
Premium documentaries are still unusual in Middle East but could find a very large audience. Especially if homegrown OTT players start promoting local ecosystems like eSports, with a focus on players from the region and international tournaments.
Hybrid delivery methods could also change the way end users watch content. Live to Theatre is a successful model in North America, why not in Middle East?
The impact of sports content on the OTT product roadmap
Sports is more than a genre, it’s a very unique type of content that can be delivered through Live, channels and On Demand. The impact is massive on the product strategy.
Successful Live events generate a very high number of streams, and the platforms have to be ready for that.
TOD and Shahid have specific sports categories, next to Films, Series and Kids content. It shows how important sports is in their content mix. They also upgraded their platforms to display matches, highlights, clubs and talk shows.
OTT players in Middle East could offer much more features to boost content usage such as watch party, comments sections, club pages with following options. In other words: create communities around one of the most high-value content out there: SPORTS
That’s all for today, 1 tip to better understand the OTT market in Middle East & North Africa.
See you online next week. Until then, enjoy Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+.
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