ADQ and E-Vision join forces to acquire majority stake in Starzplay Arabia

E-vision Starzplay. (AN photo by  Zaira Lakhpatwala)
E-vision Starzplay. (AN photo by Zaira Lakhpatwala)
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Updated 18 March 2022

ADQ and E-Vision join forces to acquire majority stake in Starzplay Arabia

ADQ and E-Vision join forces to acquire majority stake in Starzplay Arabia
  • The new consortium joins existing shareholders including Starz and SEQ Investors

ABU DHABI: E-Vision — a subsidiary of the UAE’s e&, formerly known as Etisalat Group — and ADQ, an Abu Dhabi-based investment and holding company, have signed a joint deal to acquire a majority equity stake of about 57 percent in regional streaming platform Starzplay Arabia.

Led by e&, the consortium will acquire a controlling stake based on a post-money valuation of $420 million. E-Vision’s existing stake and secondary investments will be included in the venture, and the consortium joins existing shareholders including Starz and SEQ Investors. Starz and its parent company, Lionsgate, will maintain commercial agreements for content licensing.

The deal remains subject to regulatory approvals and administrative procedures. It will reduce Lionsgate’s stake in Starzplay Arabia from 30 percent to 13 percent, in return for which the studio will receive proceeds of nearly $50 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Khalifa Al-Shamsi, the CEO of 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.”

With e& offering the “super-fast download speeds and low latency” of 5G, Al-Shamsi said that the company is in the perfect position to “drive the streaming experience to new heights” by enabling experiences such as augmented reality and virtual reality within shows and movies.

“This new development is expected to accelerate E-Vision’s transition from focusing on the telecom network business to also providing direct-to-consumer streaming services to consumers across the MENA region,” he added.

“Starzplay Arabia has transformed the region’s entertainment sector, bringing truly homegrown competencies to serve the fast-growing demand for streaming services,” said Maaz Sheikh, the CEO and co-founder of Starzplay Arabia. 

“The investment by E-Vision and ADQ will enable us to grow further by focusing on original content production and advanced customer personalization.”

Starzplay Arabia has almost 2 million subscribers in 19 countries. It said the acquisition offers the potential for international expansion, leveraging Starzplay Arabia’s reach across 20 global telecommunications companies, and will help the service to grow at scale through immediate access to e&’s customer base. 


BBC hires first disinformation and social media correspondent

BBC hires first disinformation and social media correspondent
Spring was a specialist disinformation and social media reporter at BBC News. (Twitter)
Updated 09 August 2022

BBC hires first disinformation and social media correspondent

BBC hires first disinformation and social media correspondent

LONDON: The BBC promoted on Tuesday reporter Marianna Spring to the role of disinformation and social media correspondent, the first of its kind at the news platform. 

 

 

Prior to this, Spring was a specialist disinformation and social media reporter at BBC News and BBC World Service since 2020. 

Spring announced her promotion on Twitter, where she confirmed she will be investigating the real-world consequences of online disinformation and trolling on social media, with new podcasts and more in the pipeline.


UN formally ‘raises concerns’ over Iran’s ‘abuse’ of female journalists

UN formally ‘raises concerns’ over Iran’s ‘abuse’ of female journalists
Updated 09 August 2022

UN formally ‘raises concerns’ over Iran’s ‘abuse’ of female journalists

UN formally ‘raises concerns’ over Iran’s ‘abuse’ of female journalists
  • BBC filed multiple complaints to world body since 2017
  • Tehran alleges UK channel’s Persian service supports regime change

LONDON: The UN’s formal communication with Iran’s government over its alleged abuse of BBC Persian’s female staff and their families, has now been published, alongside a terse denial from Tehran.

This comes in the wake of the BBC filing an urgent appeal to the UN in February about Iran’s alleged ongoing harassment of the journalists working for the UK channel’s Farsi service.

The BBC claims that the harassment includes online violence, threats of rape and murder, attacks on their credibility, hacking and phishing of their emails and telephones, and false and defamatory stories about their personal lives.

The UN communication, originally sent to Iranian authorities in late May, was officially published on Tuesday alongside a response from Iran, according to reports.

The BBC has filed multiple complaints with the UN since 2017, the latest of which was in February 2022. The channel claims that its staff and their families have faced relentless harassment and intimidation since BBC Persian TV was launched in 2009.

In the communication, UN experts expressed “grave concern over the continuation of reported harassment and intimidation of the BBC News Persian staff and their family members, which appears to be aimed at preventing them from continuing their journalistic activities with the language service.

The UN experts also raised concerns about the reported surveillance of journalists and the harassment of their sources in Iran, the interrogation of their family members, and the pressure placed on them “to leave their jobs.”

Additionally, the UN experts warned Iran that they intend to raise public concern regarding the alleged treatment, stating that “the wider public should be alerted” about the matter.

In its written response, Iran’s government claimed the journalists were supporting “the overthrow of the Islamic Republic,” with “hostile” coverage that “tarnishes” the regime, and which “incited riots.”

Director of BBC World Service Liliane Landor slammed Iran’s response: “We are grateful to the United Nations for raising our grave concerns about the treatment of our BBC News Persian journalists. We reject Iran’s attempt to justify its behaviour — the sanctions and harassment against our colleagues and their families must stop.”

International counsel for the BBC World Service, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson, said: “Iran’s aggressive, defensive response to the UN experts provides a revealing insight into how it considers independent journalism: a threat to its power, which must be silenced.”

They urged the international community to hold Iran accountable for these actions.


Algerian influencers jailed over student scam: media

Algerian influencers jailed over student scam: media
Updated 09 August 2022

Algerian influencers jailed over student scam: media

Algerian influencers jailed over student scam: media
  • The charges were criminal association, forgery, theft, fraud and money laundering
  • All three are well-known in the North African country

ALGIERS: Two Algerian social media influencers were sentenced on appeal Tuesday to a year each in prison, with six months suspended, over a scam targeting students seeking education abroad, local media reported.
Among the charges faced by Farouk Boudjemline, known as Rifka, and Mohamed Aberkane, alias Stanley, were criminal association, forgery, theft, fraud and money laundering.
Their co-accused Numidia Lezoul faced the same charges but was acquitted.
All three are well-known in the North African country, and were originally sentenced to one year each and fined the equivalent of 650 euros for promoting the “Future Gate” agency.
This had defrauded many Algerians wishing to study abroad, particularly in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.
It charged students large sums to arrange their university registration and provide accommodation, but left them to their fate once there.
Oussama Rezagui, the head of the agency, was given a six-year jail sentence, reduced on appeal from seven years, and a heavy fine.


UAE marketing official wins World Media Award for content creativity

UAE marketing official wins World Media Award for content creativity
Al-Shehhi oversees and develops strategic plans and policies to increase the UAE’s digital influence and outreach. (WMG)
Updated 09 August 2022

UAE marketing official wins World Media Award for content creativity

UAE marketing official wins World Media Award for content creativity
  • Khaled Al-Shehhi reaches billions of people with campaigns
  • Meals for over 1.2m raised in Burj Khalifa COVID-19 project

LONDON: The World Media Group announced on Tuesday that Khaled Al-Shehhi, executive director of marketing and communications for the UAE government, is the winner of its 2022 award for content leadership and innovation.

Al-Shehhi was awarded the honor by his peers for creating “exemplary content-driven campaigns that demonstrate brand bravery, creativity, and innovation,” WMG, a strategic alliance of the world’s leading media brands, said in a press statement.

As head of the government’s media office, Al-Shehhi has been at the center of many award-winning creative campaigns, including the transformation of the Burj Khalifa into the world’s largest donation box, which reached 4.6 billion people and raised over 1.2 million meals for those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Campaign effectiveness is just one part of this story,” the WMG stated. “Al-Shehhi has transformed the way a government entity approaches communications by making creative excellence the essence of its function. It’s clear the UAE media office behaves like a brand, not an institution.”

In response to the win, Al-Shehhi thanked the World Media Group, saying it “showcases the very best in content marketing, so I’m delighted to receive the award for Content Leadership & Innovation.”

“My goal has been to transform the way the UAE Government communicates by producing original innovative and creative content that positively impacts the lives of people locally, regionally and globally.” He said it was an honor for him and his team to be recognized by their peers.

WMG’s statement also cited Al-Shehhi’s ground-breaking initiatives to support the Middle East’s first mission to Mars including Double Moon, a regional-first projection stunt; and a limited-edition passport stamp for UAE visitors made of “Martian Ink.”

Al-Shehhi oversees and develops strategic plans and policies to increase the UAE’s digital influence and outreach.

His expertise has strengthened the UAE’s reputation as a hub for developmental, humanitarian, cultural and knowledge projects.

Al-Shehhi will receive his award at the Ham Yard Hotel in London on Thursday Sept. 8, where the final category winners will also be announced during a live ceremony.

The winner of this year’s Grand Prix Award will also be announced on the same night, joining previous winners London & Partners, Malaria No More UK, Shell, Sonos and Tata Motors as the ‘best of the best.’


ESMAA founder shares thoughts on regional music rights body’s first year in business

Photo/Supplied
Photo/Supplied
Updated 09 August 2022

ESMAA founder shares thoughts on regional music rights body’s first year in business

Photo/Supplied
  • ‘Nobody can deny that we have been the loudest voice in the region,’ Hussain ‘Spek’ Yoosuf told Arab News as he reflected on effect it has had on the music industry in the Middle East
  • ESMAA, which takes its name from the Arabic word for “listen” and was established in August 2021, works with global rights holders to facilitate the licensing of music in the Gulf

DUBAI: In August 2021, the Abu Dhabi-based independent music company PopArabia announced the launch of ESMAA, a music rights management organization.

ESMAA, which takes its name from the Arabic word for “listen,” works with global rights holders and regional businesses to facilitate the licensing of music in the Gulf. In the year since its launch, it has signed agreements to represent global royalties-collection agencies, including the UK’s Performing Right Society for Music and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.

It has also signed agreements to license music from the library of British record label Chrysalis Music and Global Master Rights, a neighboring rights company that represents more than 300 record labels and 2,500 performers including Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Metallica and David Guetta. Neighboring rights royalties are paid to performers who record a song, typically when it is played on the radio or in a public venue.

Hussain Yoosuf

ESMAA also operates as a client rights management entity of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, marking the first and, to date, only time an organization from the Gulf region has been able to benefit from CISAC’s technical tools and solutions for the administration of creators’ rights.

In addition, it was the sole music-licensing partner for the Expo 2020 Dubai and is distributing royalties around the world generated by the event. This year, ESMAA announced a licensing agreement with Saudi entertainment company MDLBEAST that will ensure composers and rights holders are paid any time their work is performed at a MDLBEAST event.

Most recently, ESMAA signed an agreement to represent US-based performing rights organization the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers and its affiliate, Harry Fox Agency, a US mechanical rights organization.

“As ESMAA continues to fulfill its mission to provide a comprehensive music licensing solution in the Gulf, it is crucial that we continue to grow our representation of global music rights,” said Hussain Yoosuf, better known by his stage name “Spek,” the founder of ESMAA and its parent company PopArabia.

ESMAA has achieved a lot in just one year, yet Spek told Arab News that when he began his crusade in the region’s music industry people thought he was “crazy.” Although the UAE and other Gulf countries had laws in place relating to intellectual property rights and licensing “they didn’t really have any infrastructure of enforcement unless you wanted to sue everybody that you met” and piracy levels were at almost 90 percent across the region in the days when music was a physical, CD-based business, he explained.

“People thought I was crazy, because there was no reason to invest in the music industry in the Middle East at the time because you knew that whatever you invested in was going to get pirated,” said Spek.

His biggest challenge, he added, was the inability to “cultivate a healthy and varied ecosystem around music” because “you couldn’t have any monetization around the asset that you created.”

While he was an aspiring artist in Canada, Spek said he would work odd jobs to save up the thousands of dollars he needed to record his music in a studio. Now, with the advent of digital technology and music-streaming companies, old-style recording studios and distribution are almost obsolete. Anyone can record music in their home now and upload it immediately.

“All of the traditional gatekeepers have been eliminated; it’s the best time ever to be an independent music artist,” he said.

Music streaming has not only altered the way music is recorded and distributed but also how people listen to it.

“The way we consume music has changed based on the way we receive the music,” said Spek. “Moreover, it’s about the creation of domestic content.

In the US, old songs now represent 70 percent of the music market, according to research by MRC Data, a music-analytics firm. The Middle East region is bigger geographically than the US, Spek said, and so the audience here is more connected.

“Repression leads to expression, so you have a lot of people with a lot of things to say,” which means there are more independent artists coming out of the region, he explained.

Even before the launch of ESMAA, PopArabia was already supervising music licensing. Over the past 10 years it has represented all of the major music publishers, Spek said, and currently represents about 60 percent of all global music.

“When people are looking for a broad license, we’re often the first conversation because so much of the rights sit in one place,” he added.

“We ended up doing things that a traditional publisher doesn’t generally do, which is trying to solve industry problems. And I’m all for that — but how do you keep the lights on as a business if all your time is spent trying to fix the industry?”

And so, ESMAA was born. Despite initial challenges and difficulties, Spek said he has not really faced much “pushback.” Saudi Arabia, for instance, has made a “conscious decision to invest heavily in entertainment and make a lot of progressive moves that change the social fabric of the Kingdom.”

A few years ago, Saudi Arabia was not even “in the conversation” when it came to music and entertainment but now “there is so much excitement and they are looking at these issues at the very highest levels of the government in Saudi and are very committed to opening it up,” he said.

Through its work with governments and artists, ESMAA is committed to making a difference in the industry.

“Nobody can deny that we have been the loudest voice in the region with respect to these (licensing) issues and moving the market forward,” Spek said.

“When the history books are written, we have got some section in there for having begun a process to open up royalties and distribute royalties when music is put in public, which I think is an essential step to developing a healthy ecosystem.”