Market Insight

OSN prepares its defences with HBO channel and EST store

October 23, 2015  | Subscribers Only

Constantinos Papavassilopoulos Constantinos Papavassilopoulos Associate Director, Service Providers & Platforms

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HBO is to launch programming day and date with the US on a dedicated channel launching in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The channel, launching in 2016, is a joint venture with the pan-Arabic pay TV operator OSN. The Dubai-based operator will enrich the content offer of its On Demand service with more than 2,000 hours of HBO programming, including a thousand hours of complete box sets of HBO TV series.

OSN has also launched OSN Store, an electronic sell-through (EST) platform, the first of its kind in the Middle East. OSN Store offers more than 1,500 movies in HD giving customers (not exclusively OSN subscribers) the opportunity to purchase and store content.   
The operator, which IHS TV Intelligence estimates had 1.1 million subscribers as of Q2 2015, renewed a long-term, exclusive first-window deal with Warner Brothers, extending it to 2020. OSN is also planning to enrich its Arabic cinema content via output deals with local distributors Eagle Films and Gulf Film including rights to broadcast over 300 movies. OSN is expanding its investment in Arabic language content with the launch of OSN Yahala Cinema HD, its fourth Arabic language channel. The Dubai-based operator has created a daily slot, at 9pm, to air original and premium drama series produced in the Gulf States. Furthermore, OSN will continue to provide Turkish TV series-very popular in the MENA region-with the acquisition of top-rated dramas like Kosem Sultan.   

Our analysis
Competition is hotting up in the region, especially in the provision of premium US movies and TV series which is the type of content that OSN has been furnishing to its customers since its inception back in 2009. Starz Play, the SVoD spin-off of the US media firm, launched in the region in April, offering movies and TV series mainly from the US, including content from Disney, Paramount, Sony, CBS and Showtime. Moreover, Starz Play is releasing its originated TV series at the same time as in the US.

Another possible threat for OSN might appear in the near future from BeIn Media Group. Local press reports have suggested the Qatari media company is preparing to launch movie channels which will mainly carry US content and form part of an entertainment bouquet.

OSN has established itself as the home of premium movies and entertainment broadcast in HD, with long-term distribution agreements with all of the Hollywood majors. The addition of a premium HBO channel screening US TV series almost simultaneously with the US, together with a stronger on demand and Arabic-language offering  should help OSN fend off competition from the online distribution of content and, primarily, from piracy.

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