Abu Dhabi: E-Vision, from e& (previously known as Etisalat Group), and ADQ, an Abu Dhabi-based investment and holding company, today announced the signing of a binding agreement to acquire a majority equity stake of circa 57% in STARZPLAY ARABIA, a leading Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) and streaming service provider in the Middle East and North Africa.
The e& led consortium will acquire a controlling stake in STARZPLAY ARABIA based on a post-money valuation of USD 420 million, while also investing E-Vision’s existing stake and secondary investments to join the other existing shareholders, including STARZ and SEQ Investors. STARZ and its parent company Lionsgate will maintain commercial agreements for content licensing to the venture. The transaction remains subject to regulatory approvals and certain administrative procedures.
Khalifa Al Shamsi, CEO, e& life, and Chairman of E-Vision, said: “STARZPLAY ARABIA is a leading video streaming platform in MENA. This acquisition is a major milestone for E-Vision and will be a catalyst for the newly formed e& life consumer digital vertical in e&. This investment further strengthens our service offering and significantly enhances STARZPLAY ARABIA’s positioning across the entire MENA region. Streaming platforms have drastically changed the way we consume media and have become commonplace in households around the world. Consumer expectations have also grown in line with this expansion as the demand for high-quality content and seamless streaming continues to rise.
Al Shamsi added, “STARZPLAY ARABIA is a great platform for us to work closely with to customise the content options for our customers. With 5G’s super-fast download speeds and low latency, we have the perfect opportunity to drive the streaming experience to new heights with viewers being able to have immersive experiences within their favourite shows and movies using Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). This new development is expected to accelerate E-Vision’s transition from focusing on the telecom network business to providing also Direct to Consumer (DTC) streaming services to consumers across the MENA region.”
Jaap Kalkman, Group Chief Investment Officer at ADQ, said: “The investment in STARZPLAY ARABIA provides ADQ access to one of the leading Subscription Video on Demand and OTT service providers in the region. With its state-of-the-art technology, distribution strength and compelling and engaging content, STARZPLAY ARABIA has developed a unique market positioning in the MENA region and is well positioned for further growth.”
Jeffrey Hirsch, President and Chief Executive Officer of STARZ, said: “We’re proud of what Maaz and the team have built over the past few years, creating one of the pre-eminent SVOD platforms in the Middle East and North Africa. STARZPLAY ARABIA marked our first international initiative at a time when streaming internationally was still nascent. It served as a template for growth that allowed us to rapidly scale the STARZPLAY brand around the world now in over 60 countries. We’re pleased to continue our productive partnership with E-Vision while adding ADQ to the venture, partners whose local market expertise will help us continue to accelerate the growth of the business together and create enormous value.”
Maaz Sheikh, Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder of STARZPLAY ARABIA, said: “STARZPLAY ARABIA has transformed the region’s entertainment sector, bringing truly homegrown competencies to serve the fast-growing demand for streaming services. The investment by E-Vision and ADQ will enable us to grow further by focusing on original content production and advanced customer personalisation. We thank them for their trust in our vision as well as our shareholders STARZ and SEQ Investors for originally backing our idea and enabling us to turn our start-up aspirations into a flourishing business reality. Their continued support, along with the exceptional strengths that E-Vision and ADQ bring, will enable us to further establish our credentials as the region’s entertainment champion.”
STARZPLAY ARABIA has close to 2 million subscribers across 19 countries, giving E-Vision an opportunity to further strengthen its lead in content aggregation and access the fast growth video DTC streaming business in MENA region. This will enable the launch of new product lines, expand geographic reach and access to advanced technical capabilities. The acquisition provides potential for international expansion, leveraging STARZPLAY ARABIA’s reach across 20 global telcos.
With this joint investment, STARZPLAY ARABIA can leverage media content delivered by both E-Vision and ADQ portfolio companies, further optimising its content acquisition spending. Additionally, STARZPLAY ARABIA will also gain significant scale through immediate access to e&’s vast customer base. Under E-Vision, the company stands to benefit from improved economies of scale and can substantially accelerate deployments across key markets in the region.
STARZ (www.starz.com), a Lionsgate company, is a leading global media streaming platform committed to delivering premium content that amplifies narratives by, about and for women and underrepresented audiences. STARZ is home to the highly-rated and first-of-its-kind STARZ app that offers the ability to stream or download STARZ premium content, as well as the flagship domestic STARZ® service, including STARZ ENCORE, 17 premium pay TV channels, and the associated on-demand and online services. In 2018, STARZ launched its STARZPLAY international premium streaming platform to provide subscribers access to the “best of global SVOD.” STARZPLAY, coupled with its STARZPLAY ARABIA joint venture, has expanded its global footprint into more than 60 countries throughout Europe and Latin America along with Canada, Japan, India and Indonesia. STARZ and STARZPLAY are available across digital OTT platforms and multichannel video distributors, including cable operators, satellite television providers, and telecommunications companies around the world. In February 2021, STARZ launched #TakeTheLead, a multi-faceted and innovative inclusion initiative expanding its existing efforts to improve representation on screen, behind the camera and throughout the company.
About STARZPLAY Arabia
STARZPLAY Arabia (www.starzplay.com) is a subscription video on demand service that streams Hollywood movies, TV shows, documentaries, the same-time-as-the-US series – plus live sports, dedicated kids’ entertainment and Arabic content – to 19 countries across MENA and Pakistan.
The service carries thousands of premium titles including exclusive STARZPLAY Arabia original content such as Baghdad Central, STARZ Original content such as Power, Outlander, Spartacus and The White Queen as well as premium content with add-ons such as discovery+, UFC Arabia, BluTV, Premier Sports, AD Sports, PowerPlay and Majid TV.
STARZPLAY Arabia has secured tie ups with a host of leading, global studios including MGM, 20th Century Studios, Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Discovery and Fox International Channels.
Until 2022, STARZ (www.starz.com), a Lionsgate company (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) was the lead investor along with media and technology investment firms including SEQ Investors and Delta Partners. In early 2021, STARZPLAY Arabia secured its first independent financing in the region of US$25 million (approx. AED 92 million) from Abu Dhabi based Ruya Partners.
Reaching close to 2 million subscribers, STARZPLAY Arabia allows subscribers to watch its full HD and 4K content via most internet-enabled devices, smart TVs and game consoles, and is widely available on regional IPTV services. Its iOS and Android apps – installed on more than three million devices – also allow downloads for offline playback.
@starzplayarabia Instagram, @starzplay Facebook, @STARZPlayArabia Twitter
Established in 1999, E-Vision, from e& (previously known as Etisalat Group) is the largest and most trusted content aggregator in UAE with flagship entertainment services as eLife TV and SwitchTV, but also a leader in all forms of entertainment across all current and emerging media and digital platforms in the MENA region. As a pioneer in home entertainment via IPTV and OTT technology in the region, E-Vision provides a comprehensive turnkey solution for content aggregation and content management for IPTV platforms, multi-screen, mobile and OTT, and operates in UAE, KSA, Egypt and Pakistan.
With over 20 years of collaborating with major Hollywood studios, independent studios and regional content players, E-Vision offers a vast content proposition with more than 600 TV channels and 15,000 hours of on-demand content across many languages.
As part of e& Life, E-Vision aims to target new business growth opportunities in media and entertainment across MENA, amplifying its consumer entertainment offerings and curation.
e&, formerly known as Etisalat Group, is one of the world’s leading technology and investment conglomerates. With consolidated net revenue at AED 53.3 billion and consolidated net profit of AED 9.3 billion for 2021, its high credit ratings reflect the company’s strong balance sheet and proven long-term performance.
Founded in Abu Dhabi more than four decades ago as the UAE’s first telecommunications company, the Group now operates in 16 countries across the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
e& provides innovative digital solutions, smart connectivity and next-generation technologies to a variety of customer segments through its four business pillars: Telecom, e& life, e& enterprise and e& capital.
Established in 2018, ADQ is an Abu Dhabi-based investment and holding company with a broad portfolio of major enterprises. Its investments span key sectors of the UAE’s diversified economy including energy and utilities, food and agriculture, healthcare and life sciences, and mobility and logistics, amongst others. As a strategic partner of Abu Dhabi’s government, ADQ is committed to accelerating the transformation of the Emirate into a globally competitive and knowledge-based economy.