OSN closes Movies Festival channel after four years

Channel had screened the best of indie, underground, world and Oscar-nominated cinema across the MENA region. Content moves online.

Eddie Redmayne on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,' which screened on OSN Movies Festival in 2017. Courtesy Warner Bros
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Cinephiles across the Middle East were left with one less option for viewing indie and underground cinema with the largely unannounced closure of OSN’s Movies Festival channel over the weekend.

Customers who subscribe to OSN's channels directly from the company were advised by email of the channel's imminent closure. However, most viewers in the UAE subscribe to OSN's service as part of their du or Etisalat package, and these customers were seemingly not informed of the changes.

The channel, which launched in 2014 and provided a regular diet of international fare including regional TV premieres of films such as Hidden Figures and the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and had also in recent years played host to live coverage of the annual Oscars ceremony was taken off the air over the weekend, taking many viewers by surprise. Customers who attempt to view the channel now see a ticker advising them how to access the content online.

Emad Morcos, OSN’s chief content officer, insisted that the move would not mean the end of quality non-blockbuster movies on the OSN schedules, however, and that the OSN Movies Festival content would be redistributed to other channels in the OSN stable: “OSN is providing its customers with even more convenience and choice by moving all the critically-acclaimed OSN Movies Festival HD films to one of its highest viewed channels, OSN Movies HD, to expose these award-winning movies to a bigger audience,” he said.

Morcos added that subscribers would also be able to access the former channel’s content via a new folder in the broadcaster's OSN Play service, an online streaming service which is offered free of charge to existing OSN subscribers, as well as via the pay-tv platform’s on-demand service: “These movies are also available in a dedicated 'Movies Festival' curated folder on OSN Play, the companion app for OSN subscribers, and OSN On Demand to watch anytime, anywhere,” Morcos said. “OSN is investing heavily in the digital delivery of content to meet the changing ways in which customers consume entertainment. This move means that independent and award-winning film on OSN is digitally accessible and convenient for fans to explore and enjoy on any device, anywhere at any time, and at no additional cost.”

OSN did not give a reason for the decision to close OSN Movies Festival. OSN does not release viewing figures.

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