Melbourne − The launch of the first non-native subscription online video service in the Middle East heralds a new phase in the evolution of the premium OTT video market in the region. Traditional cultural barriers that previously made outside companies hesitant about launching in the region, the core of which is the GCC, are starting to fall and the industry is starting to react.

Ovum profiled the 11 leading premium subscription streaming services in the Middle East and has forecast regional consumer spending on OTT video. It found that, while current spending levels are low at 5% of total global OTT video spending, the sector is primed for rapid growth. The launch of U.S. pay-TV network Starz is expected to be the first of many foreign subscription online video (SVOD) providers’ incursions into the region.

Ismail Patel, analyst in Ovum’s TV Practice, commented, “Middle Eastern subscription streaming is set to grow dramatically compared to other regional markets over the coming years. SVOD revenues will grow by over 25% annually to 2019, accounting for over 70% of all OTT revenues in the region. A dramatic increase in subscriber numbers is forecast in the next few years and 2019 will see more than 1 million Middle Eastern subscribers watching streaming services, complementing a growing overall market for visual entertainment.

Long-held reservations when considering a MENA launch are no longer game breakers as censorship controls are relaxed for pay-TV operators and streaming services.”

Two-thirds of the world’s Arab population is under 30, making it a prime target for online video entertainment. While there are vigorous free and pay-TV sectors serving the region, there is a dearth of high-quality Western TV and movie content at the low prices offered by subscription streaming.