The June 8 launch of Disney+ in the Middle East will bring another A-list streaming service to an already crowded marketplace, and seems certain to ensure the rapidly growing service, which reported a 37 per cent year-on-year growth in subscriber numbers in its year-end report for 2021, will continue to add viewers at an impressive rate.
With 129.8 million subscribers internationally at the close of last year (including its Asian Disney+ Hotstar offshoot), Disney still lags behind Netflix in terms of pure numbers — the grandaddy of the streaming services reported 221.84 million subscribers at the close of 2021 — but Netflix’s growth has been slowing in recent years, and it can only dream of Disney’s impressive ability to add new subscribers.
Of course, having only launched in the US and other selected markets in 2019, Disney hasn't yet had Netflix’s 15 years as a streaming service to reach peak viewers, and we can only expect its own growth to slow with time, but right now it’s the streaming service du jour, with new shows from the Star Wars and Marvel franchises driving new subscriptions, alongside originals such as The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers and a century of the parent company’s back catalogue.
It seems likely to keep adding viewers for the rest of 2022, with launches in a further 42 countries and 11 territories planned over the year.
With this in mind, we take a look at the key, English-language-focused competition Disney+ will face in the UAE when it enters in June.
Note that although all the streamers on our list feature primarily English content, they also offer a selection of international and local content, as well as subtitles or dubbing in several languages.
The original streamer continues to be the world’s most popular thanks to global hits such as 2021’s Squid Game, reliable originals such as Stranger Things and Black Mirror, and collaborations with giants of the film and TV world such as Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) and Zack Snyder (Army of the Dead).
Netflix claims that “more than 125 million hours” of content are available at any time on its site.
The service started in the UAE in 2016, and prices begin at Dh29 a month.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon’s streaming service is snapping at Netflix’s heels in the global subscriber stakes. The company announced in its April 2021 earnings report that it had topped 200 million paid subscribers. This is somewhat deceptive, however, as Prime Video membership is bundled in with a subscription to the Amazon Prime shopping service.
In the same 2021 earnings report, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos claimed that 175 million of those subscribers “have streamed shows and movies in the past year”. Favourites on the service include the postmodern superhero yarn The Boys and quirky comedy The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, while a healthy Bollywood selection also keeps viewers in the region glued to their screens.
Amazon Prime entered the UAE market in 2019 and costs Dh16 a month, or Dh140 a year.
Starzplay Arabia is something of a local success story, with just short of two million subscribers in the region at the end of 2021, a figure that only seems likely to have grown with the service’s move into live sports, including exclusive rights to the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers and the Coppa Italia.
Starzplay also has a healthy commitment to local content, such as the forthcoming Image Nation Abu Dhabi co-production Urban Legends, alongside a sizeable, 10,000 hour-plus back catalogue of international favourites such as The Office and Big Bang Theory.
Starzplay launched in the UAE in 2014, and costs Dh40 a month.
OSN’s streaming service gained its latest moniker, replacing OSN Streaming, in March, following incarnations as OSN Play, OSN Go and Wavo.
Thankfully, OSN+’s content updates more regularly than its name, including shows from HBO, NBC and Paramount such as Game of Thrones and Halo, alongside local content such as the soon-to-launch Arabic adaptation of Suits and OSN’s debut feature film The Yellow Bus.
OSN was also, until recently, the home of Disney streaming in the region through the Disney+ on OSN service. However Disney is now winding down contracts with third-party broadcasters in order to ramp up its own offering.
OSN+ costs Dh35 monthly.
Apple TV+, it’s fair to say, doesn’t boast the same volume of content as some of its competitors, but what it lacks in quantity it seeks to make up for in quality.
From quirky comedy courtesy of the Jason Sudeikis-starring Ted Lasso to the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon-fronted drama The Morning Show via M Night Shyamalan weirdness thanks to Servant, Apple TV+ is the living embodiment of good things in small packages.
It also just picked up the first Oscar for Best Picture for a streaming service for Coda.
Apple TV+ launched in the UAE in 2019 and costs Dh19.99 a month.