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.


Maalem Financing raises $26m in debut sukuk

Updated 17 October 2018
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Maalem Financing raises $26m in debut sukuk

  • The sukuk from Maalem, a shariah-compliant commercial and consumer financing firm, is a small but novel deal
  • The three-year unsubordinated deal was sold through a private placement and Maalem could tap the market again

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Maalem Financing has raised SR100 million ($26.6 million) from a debut sale of Islamic bonds, or sukuk, as the firm seeks to develop a crowdfunding product and expand its operations, a senior executive said on Tuesday.
The sukuk from Maalem, a shariah-compliant commercial and consumer financing firm, is a small but novel deal in a market that is dominated by issuance from sovereign institutions and Islamic banks.
The three-year unsubordinated deal was sold through a private placement and Maalem could tap the market again as early as January next year, said John Sandwick, a member of Maalem’s board of directors.
“The program is for SR500 million and with 3.6 times oversubscription, there seems to be a lot of demand,” he said.
Additional sales of sukuk aimed to raise between SR100 million and SR200 million, depending on market conditions, he said, adding that Maalem may consider a dollar-denominated sukuk issuance at a later stage.
The debut transaction used a structure known as murabaha, a cost-plus-profit arrangement commonly used in Saudi Arabia. The firm hoped to use an asset-backed structure for future deals, Sandwick said.
Established in 2009, Maalem received regulatory approval to operate as a non-real estate finance company in 2016 and increased its capital in 2017 to SR150 million.
The company plans to open several regional offices by the end of 2018 and is awaiting regulatory approval for a crowdfunding license, Sandwick said.
Crowdfunding enables startup firms to collect small sums of money from many individuals as an alternative to bank loans.
Albilad Capital, the investment banking unit of Bank Albilad, served as sole lead manager and arranger of the sukuk.