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| 15 August, 2017

Fox to launch new streaming service in the Middle East

Dancers from the reality series "So You Think You Can Dance" perform at the Fox television network portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 23, 2012.   REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Dancers from the reality series "So You Think You Can Dance" perform at the Fox television network portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 23, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Tuesday, Aug 15, 2017

DUBAI

Fox Networks Group, the operating company of Fox television broadcasting and content, will be bringing its streaming service to the Middle East in the “next four of five months,” according to a senior network executive.

Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview, Sanjay Raina, Senior Vice President & General Manager at Fox Networks Group, Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan, said that he expected the service, called Fox Plus, to launch in this region “soon”, whilst adding that the network was “working towards a deal with a platform.”

The streaming service is essentially a library of Fox-owned content, (close to 20,000 hours of television, according to Raina) that the company will license out to a platform such as Netflix.

Fox has been piloting the service in South East Asia, with Fox Plus having already launched in Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore.

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“We’re targeting countries where we can provide lots of local content, plus live sports such as Formula One, and tennis,” Raina said.

“In addition to that, we’re giving them day-date programming, such as the Walking Dead and so on, the same day that it comes out in the US,” he added.

Asked which platform in the region Fox hoped to strike a deal with, Raina declined to comment.

He, however, said that the market was overcrowded and he expected mergers in the future.

In the region, consumers currently have a choice between Netflix, Starz Play, Icflix, Iflix, Shahid Plus and OSN Go, “all vying for the same consumer,” Raina noted. “There’s a huge focus in the company on delivering value to the customer through Fox Plus at the moment,” he said.

The age of ‘on demand’

The network executive is referring to the current battle raging between traditional, linear television, and streaming services, such as Netflix.

These online platforms have been eating up market share from the traditional platforms, offering more affordable packages and the freedom that many crave in this era of ‘on demand.’

“People are more aware now however of the different methods of distribution for their content, such as YouTube, Netflix and so on, each with different price points and unique benefits,” Raina said, adding: “It’s a game that is being orchestrated more by platforms, who are realising that in order to reach the customer, they need to repurpose and re-engineer their pricing mechanisms. But in all of this, content remains what content is. Whether you’re at $8 or $80, content remains the most important thing.”

More and more companies are looking to get in to the streaming business, he noted.

Many young people are refusing to pay the large amounts required for traditional cable bundles, opting instead to watch for free online or with family streaming packages via Netflix and similar services.

Price point

Raina acknowledged this generational shift, stating that young people are not watching linear television “at all,” for a variety of reasons.

“Linear TV needs to work out how to keep the attention of these young guys intact,” he said.

With some cable packages costing as much as $100 per month, young people are struggling to afford premium cable packages. “It is ultimately the consumer that will decide if the $40 price point is viable, or the $10 price point is viable,” Raina said, going on to echoing his earlier warning that not all streaming services would survive.

“But clearly, the $10 price point is not viable,” he said, primarily because quality content was becoming so expensive to make as people looked for big budget hits like Game of Thrones.

Raina went on to recommend that linear television companies become “a bit more intelligent” order to combat streaming services.

Describing Netflix and its ilk as “nibbling” at his industry’s market and value share, Raina suggested that whilst reasonable pricing was one way to arrest the decline, since there is “clearly discontent with the higher price bundles,” traditional companies must aim to give people the freedom they get with streaming services.

“Why aren’t the linear channels being served in a manner where they resemble streaming services more closely?” he added.

With the launch of their new streaming service, Fox will hope to find itself a player in whichever platform and price-point ultimately prevails.

By Ed Clowes Staff Reporter

Gulf News 2017. All rights reserved.