Middle East OTT heats up with Viu launch

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Competition in the OTT space in the Middle East is intensifying with PCCW’s Viu becoming the latest platform to roll out across the region.

Viu, a mobile-based VOD platform owned by Hong Kong’s PCCW, is already available in Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. It has now been launched in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan.

In addition to Hollywood and Bollywood content, Viu will stream Arabic-language movies and TV shows, including Egyptian, Syrian, Khaleeji and Tunisian dramas. It also has a large library of music videos from artists such as Amr Diab (pictured), Nicole Saba, Hassan El Shafei and Nancy Ajram.

Catering to the Filipino population in the Middle East, Viu will also stream sitcoms from the Philippines, as well as music videos from stars such as Garry Valenciano and Christian Bautista.

Viu’s entry to the Middle East comes just one week after Malaysia-based iflix announced a tie-up with Kuwaiti mobile operator Zain to launch across the region.

The two players join an increasingly crowded field, where Netflix, Amazon and Starz Play Arabia are jostling with local platforms, including Dubai-based icflix and Abu Dhabi-based TV.ae, to reach the Arab world’s population of around 370 million people.

The Middle East’s two major regional broadcasters, OSN and MBC, also operate their own OTT services.

Launched in October 2015, Viu is based on technology developed by US-based Vuclip, which promises to offer viewers a “buffer free” viewing experience. Operating on a freemium model, it targets emerging markets and has stocked up on local language content.

In East Asia, the service offers content from Korea, Japan, Taiwan and mainland China and in India streams content in multiple Indian languages. It recently signed a content licensing deal with Mumbai-based Shemaroo for its library of Hindi movies.

Vuclip was founded in 2008 by Nickhil Jakatdar and Niu Xinhui Niu in Milpitas, California and was acquired by Hong Kong-based telecoms and media group PCCW in 2015.