E-Vision, from e& — previously known as Etisalat Group, and ADQ, an Abu Dhabi-based investment and holding company, on Thursday announced the signing of a binding agreement to acquire a majority equity stake of circa 57 per cent 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 $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,” he said.
“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,” he said.
He said 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.”
Starzplay Arabia investment
Jaap Kalkman, group chief investment officer at ADQ, said the investment in Starzplay Arabia provides ADQ access to one of the leading SVOD 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 and 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,” he said.
Two million subscribers
Starzplay Arabia has close to two 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.
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