Subscription video on demand (SVOD) services in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have grown in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, if STARZPLAY’s experience is anything to go by. The SVOD provider has received its first independent debt financing of about US$25 million from Abu Dhabi-based Ruya Partners.
Secured on the basis of its financial strength and performance, the funds will be used to boost STARZPLAY’s geographic and customer reach as well as for acquiring and producing original content, support STARZPLAY’s growth ambitions through to a potential IPO.
The investment adds to the US$125 million secured since its launch in 2015 from STARZ, a Lionsgate company, State Street Global Advisors and technology investment firms SEQ Capital Partners and Delta Partners.
STARZPLAY offers over 10,000 hours of premium content, and is available in 20 countries across MENA and Pakistan. STARZPLAY content reaches over 1.8 million paying subscribers and has been installed on over six million devices. With a market share of over 32%, it saw its unique user numbers grow 141% in 2020.
Maaz Sheikh, Co-Founder and CEO of STARZPLAY said, “This partnership demonstrates our ability to attract top-notch institutional investors as we drive growth and ensure a path to profitability.
“It strengthens our capacity to create original content, expand our footprint and cement our status as MENA’s digital champion. We now have the foundation for our plans to list STARZPLAY and create even more shareholder value.”
Rashid Siddiqi, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Ruya Partners said: “The financing reflects our strategy of backing businesses with strong fundamentals and management teams that have a proven track of executing to plan and delivering long-term value.”
Mirza Beg, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Ruya Partners, added: “We evaluated the model of STARZPLAY, which shows great promise for growth. As a creative enterprise with high-tech infrastructure, its success will inspire other UAE-based start-ups.”
According to Statista, the 2021 global entertainment and media market will match 2019 numbers with estimated revenues of US$2.1 trillion.