Dubai-based OSN signs partnership with Netflix

Netflix boasts almost 120 million users globally, but has been relatively slow to pick up subscribers in the Middle East, figures from last year show. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2018
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Dubai-based OSN signs partnership with Netflix

LONDON: The broadcaster OSN has signed the Middle East’s first partnership deal with US entertainment giant Netflix, signaling a shift in the region’s media landscape.

Customers of pay-TV service OSN will be able to access Netflix movies and TV shows using a new OSN box that will be launched around June of this year. Additionally, customers will soon be able to pay for their Netflix subscription through their OSN bill.

“Our partnership with Netflix marks a bold first step for industry collaboration and integration,” Martin Stewart, CEO of OSN, told Arab News.

The Netflix partnership comes amid “a shifting global media landscape that sees demand for relevant and exclusive content across multiple platforms continue to grow,” OSN added.

François Godard, an analyst at Enders Analysis, said the infrastructure of the Middle East meant the OSN-Netflix deal made sense.

“When you are in a region where broadband penetration is lower, where payment systems are less developed, it makes more sense to (partner with) an established player,” he told Arab News.

“Netflix is very opportunistic company. They believe in their model, so they are not afraid to partner with other people. We may see deals like this more in the future — why not a deal between Netflix and Sky (in the UK)?”

Change may be taking place, but Netflix has been slow to chase the MENA market, where it has seen relatively sluggish growth in subscriber numbers, according to figures published last year.

The content streaming service had only managed to attract 137,000 paying subscribers by the end of 2016 in the MENA region, according to analysis by IHS Markit. The research firm estimates that number for the region will rise to 1.29 million by the end of 2021.

IHS Markit told Arab News in July that “Netflix needs to sign deals with telcos and mobile operators for direct operator billing. This is crucial for markets like MENA and already other (video) operators (like STARZ Play Arabia, icflix, Shahid Plus, Seevii) have inked relevant deals.”

Globally, subscriber numbers are looking more rosy. Last year Netflix raced through the 100 million subscriber mark, and it now boasts almost 120 million, with its market capitalization now standing at $120 billion.

The Netflix Nasdaq-listed share price has almost doubled year-on-year, standing at $278 in after-hours trading.

“The future of the entertainment industry in the MENA region will be shaped by providers who offer value and choice at every turn,” said OSN’s Stewart.

Maria Ferreras, VP for business development for EMEA at Netflix said, “With this regional partnership and thanks to hundreds of Netflix’s original titles slated for 2018, OSN’s customers will be able to seamlessly access and enjoy all the best entertainment in one place.”

The new partnership follows a recent announcement that saw OSN partner with Lamsa, an Arabic-language children’s “edutainment” platform.

OSN confirmed to Arab News that it is continuing to explore similar opportunities.


2 years on, Brexit vote has taken a toll on UK economy

Updated 23 June 2018
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2 years on, Brexit vote has taken a toll on UK economy

  • Big companies are sounding the alarm bell, with plane making giant Airbus this week threatening to pull out of the country, where it employs 14,000, if it gets no clarity on future trade deals
  • The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, estimated recently that average household incomes are around 900 pounds lower than the bank was forecasting on the eve of the referendum

LONDON: While it’s still unclear what Brexit will look like when it happens next year, the decision to leave has already had a clear effect on the economy: households are poorer, companies are more cautious about investing, and the property market has cooled.
In the two years since the vote to leave the European Union, Britain has gone from being a pace-setter among the world’s big economies to falling into the slow lane. And the uncertainty over what relations with the EU will be when Brexit becomes official on March 29, 2019 could make matters worse.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government remains split on what those relations should be. There are those who favor a “hard Brexit,” a clean break that takes Britain out of the bloc’s free trade union but also gives it more freedom to strike new trade deals around the world. Others want to keep Britain as close as possible to the EU, Britain’s biggest trading partner, which could mean it has to obey more of the bloc’s rules.
Big companies are sounding the alarm bell, with plane making giant Airbus this week threatening to pull out of the country, where it employs 14,000, if it gets no clarity on future trade deals.
“Thousands of skilled, well-paid jobs are now on the line because of the shambolic mess the government have created over the Brexit negotiations,” said Darren Jones, the lawmaker for the community where Airbus has its plant.
Before the referendum of June 2016, the British economy had been one of the fastest-growing industrial economies for years. Now, it’s barely growing. In the first quarter of this year it expanded by just 0.1 percent from the previous three-month period, its slowest rate in about five years.
For most people, the first and most noticeable impact was the drop in the pound. The currency slid 15 percent after the vote in June 2016 to a post-1985 low of $1.21. That boosted prices by making imports and energy more expensive for consumers and companies — the rate of inflation hit a high of 3 percent late last year.
The weaker pound helped some companies: exporters and multinationals that do not sell mainly in the UK But it hurt consumer spending and businesses that depend on their shopping. The retail industry was hit hard, with high-profile companies like Toys R Us and Maplin going bust, and supermarket chain Marks and Spencer planning deep cuts.
While prices rose, wages lagged, even though unemployment is at its lowest since 1975, at 4.2 percent.
“After Brexit, prices definitely went up,” said Nagesh Balusu, manager of the Salt Whisky Bar and Dining Room in London. “We struggled a bit earlier this year, so now we’ve increased the prices.” The bar is next to Hyde Park, a popular destination for foreign visitors. “The tourists have a good exchange rate. They know they can spend a little bit more than they usually do. But the locals are coming a little less. They are starting to think about how much they spend.”
The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, estimated recently that average household incomes are around 900 pounds lower than the bank was forecasting on the eve of the referendum.
The real estate market, meanwhile, has cooled considerably, with the number of property sales in London near a historic low last year, according to estate agent Foxtons.
While some foreign prospective buyers were attracted by the drop in the pound, others seem to have been scared off by uncertainty over what Brexit might mean for their investment.
House prices are stagnating after years of gains, also due to expectations that the Bank of England will keep gradually increasing interest rates.
Nic Budden, Foxton’s CEO, predicts that the real estate market will remain challenging this year, while Samuel Tombs, analyst at Pantheon Economics, predicts that house prices will flatline for the next 6 months.
Against the backdrop of uncertainty, businesses have become more reluctant to invest in big projects. Because Brexit could lead to tariffs on EU imports of British goods, companies are hesitant to spend big on British plants and office space before they know what the new rules will be.
Benoit Rochet, the deputy chief of the port of Calais, the French town across the Channel from Britain, complained to a parliamentary committee this month that “we know there is Brexit but we don’t know exactly what Brexit means.”
“You are not alone,” responded the Conservative chair of the committee, Nicky Morgan.