Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

Prices to top picks: your guide to online video streaming in the UAE

We look at the various services available and the unique features each has to offer

'The Morning Show', 'The Mandalorian' and 'Fleabag' are all available to stream in the UAE. 
'The Morning Show', 'The Mandalorian' and 'Fleabag' are all available to stream in the UAE. 

Luckily for us, stay-home orders have been issued around the world at a time when there has never been so many options when it comes to television shows and movies made to be consumed while sitting on your couch.

In recent years, streaming services have exploded in both number and popularity, challenging the likes of Netflix, which once dominated the on-demand market.

Between AppleTV+, Amazon Prime, OSN, and plenty more, some of the best video content in the world is now available at the click of a button.

Here's a list of the most popular options available in the region.

Netflix

The daddy of streaming services, Netflix has dramatically increased production of original content in the past 12 months or so. It is home to many hit original series, including Stranger Things and Black Mirror, and original movies, which are among some of the biggest releases in recent years, including Marriage Story, Roma and The Irishman.

It also has a vast back catalogue of shows, movies, documentaries and more.

30-day free trial, then from Dh29 per month; www.netflix.com

OSN Streaming

As the region’s biggest legacy pay-TV provider, OSN was quick to spot both the threat and the opportunities presented by streaming services when it launched OSN Play in 2012.

A handout photo of Marvel's Captain America: Civil War showing L to R: Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) (Film Frame /Marvel)
Marvel's 'Captain America: Civil War' is available on OSN Wavo

The service offers existing TV subscribers thousands of hours of on-demand content, as well as access to select live-streaming channels from OSN’s expansive stable. Play is now complemented by OSN Streaming, formerly Wavo, which does not require an OSN TV subscription, and for a contract-free, monthly payment offers a selection of OSN’s most popular series, movies and sports. Highlights include shows such as Suits, Game of Thrones, Vinyl and Lucifer, movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and international cricket, as well as the newly launched, and free, Asli service.

14-day free trial, then $9.99 (Dh36.70) per month; www.osn.com

Starzplay

Starzplay Arabia features a host of movies and TV series, many on an exclusive or first-showing basis. The platform unsurprisingly has exclusive rights to premiere shows from the parent network, meaning that shows can be watched here first and at the same time as they broadcast in the US. It also has an enviable back catalogue – including The Office, The Big Bang Theory and Friends.

Self-isolating in a houseshare has been a crash course in understanding. 
All 10 seasons of 'Friends' are on Starzplay.

The platform hosts more than 10,000 hours of movie and series viewing, with easily activated Arabic subtitles, and can be viewed on a host of devices, including existing Humax set-top boxes alongside the usual array of phones, laptops and tablets.

The service also recently inked a new deal with entertainment giant Warner Bros, meaning that plenty more shows from the DC Comics world will be coming to screens.

One-month free trial, then Dh40 per month; arabia.starzplay.com

Apple TV+

In November, Apple launched its much-anticipated Apple TV+ service with the help of a veritable who's who of Hollywood elite, including the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa and Oprah Winfrey, and a diverse new line-up of original TV shows and films.

It has an annual budget of $6 billion for content, which includes The Morning Show, starring Witherspoon and Aniston, and costing $150 million per season to make.

You can use the streaming service on all the usual Apple devices – iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac – and some non-Apple-affiliated platforms. However, in a move not necessarily typical of Apple, you will also be able to use it on select 2018, 2019 and newer Samsung smart TVs, and on Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony and Vizio platforms.

Seven-day free trial, $4.99 (Dh18) a month; www.apple.com/ae/apple-tv-plus/

Disney+

The same month that Apple TV+ debuted, The Walt Disney Co debuted its Disney+ service, offering the Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm Star Wars catalogues, plus new original shows.

Having signed up 10 million subscribers by launch day, the streamer has only gone from strength to strength, and is on track to hit 30 million subscribers.

And while Disney+ isn't yet available in the UAE, due to a tie-up with OSN, all its content is. As of April 9, all of Disney+'s television shows and movies are available with a Dh35 subscription to Osn Wavo.

Obvious draws for Disney+ is its enormous back catalogue of Disney Classics: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and plenty more. There's also all the largest entries from Marvel, and everything Star Wars – from the launch bonus of The Mandalorian to The Rise of Skywalker, releasing straight to Disney+ on May 4.

Seven day free trial, then $6.99 (Dh26) per month; www.disneyplus.com

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon’s service launched in the Middle East in 2018. Popular shows include The Office, Jeremy Clarkson and co’s post-Top Gear show The Grand Tour and dystopian drama The Man in the High Castle.

It also has popular shows such as Hanna, Good Omens, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Fleabag, alongside some third-party content including Hollywood films such as No Country for Old Men, Bollywood favourites including Mirzapur and Gully Boy, as well as dedicated sections for Hindi and Tamil movies, plus Arabic-subtitled and Arabic audio movies (note: these are mostly foreign films with no section for actual Arabic movies).

Also, as a response to the coronavirus pandemic in March, the service launched a new hub called Prime Video Cinema, which allows users to watch films on theatrical release from home.

Films that were released on Prime Video Cinema include Onward, Birds of Prey, The Way Back, The Hunt, The Invisible Man, Emma, and Bloodshot.

The purchase price for rental is $19.99 , and you've got 30 days to start watching, but only 48 hours to finish once started.

30-day free trial, then from Dh16 per month; www.primevideo.com

MBC Shahid

MBC’s Shahid offers the world’s biggest library of Arabic content, including MBC’s vast catalogue of its own shows, such as Project Runway Arabia and The Voice Arabia, as well as dubbed or subtitled foreign content, from British TV shows such as Top Gear to Hollywood action, Turkish soaps and Korean rom-coms.

And this year, after a tie-up with Disney and Fox, Shahid got even bigger – with the introduction of more than 3,000 hours of content. It means Marvel will be coming to the platform, as well as Disney's animated classics.

MBC’s top-rated channels are included in the new and improved Shahid, which includes nine HD channels, streamed live, as well as a catch-up service.

Dh19.99 per month; shahid.mbc.net

Viu

Viu, which is based in Hong Kong and has several localised operations throughout Asia, launched in the Middle East in February 2017. That only makes it a year younger than Netflix, regionally.

The Pan-Asian free streaming service is also home to a wide selection of content, including Arabic, Bollywood, Korean, Indonesian and Filipino productions, which are frequently available with English and Arabic subtitles.

Viu released its highest profile Arabic Original to date in June last year, with an adaptation of Ahmed Khaled Tawfik's Hazak El Youm series of novels, called Zodiac, which follows the adventures of a group of university students who unearth an ancient Egyptian curse, which causes them to die one-by-one in a variety of gruesome ways relating to their zodiac sign.

Free; www.viu.com

SonyLiv

Created in 2013, SonyLiv now has more than 70 popular shows from Sony Pictures India’s content library and 1,500 movies (including Hollywood hits) that are available for streaming.

It features programming tailor-made for the South Asian diaspora in the region, with content in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, with English subtitles.

'Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah' will be available for streaming on the service. Courtesy SonyLiv
'Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah' will be available for streaming on the service. Courtesy SonyLiv

It includes popular shows such as The Kapil Sharma Show, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, Patiala Babes, Ladies Special, and Super Dancer.

Like other streaming services, SonyLiv also offers original content with shows such as rom-com The Big Bong Connection and mini-series Kacho Papad Pako Papad.

From Dh22 per month; www.sonyliv.com

Eros Now

It is no surprise to find Bollywood getting in on the action, too. Eros Now is the online streaming arm of Mumbai's film producer and distributor Eros International, and allows subscribers to pick from the parent company’s huge library of more than 2,000 movies, as well as hundreds of other films for which it has acquired digital rights. The site also offers a selection of Indian TV shows and music.

Basic service free, premium service Dh12 per month; www.erosnow.com

BeIN Connect

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, right, duels for the ball against Valencia's Carlos Soler during the Spanish Copa del Rey, semifinal, first leg, soccer match between FC Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, right, duels for the ball against Valencia's Carlos Soler during the Spanish Copa del Rey semifinal. AP

BeIN Connect has long been a favourite with football fans thanks to its exclusive rights to live European football action, including the English Premier League, Spain’s Primera Liga, Italian Serie A and French Ligue 1. It has now expanded to offer its subscribers movies, entertainment and children’s content, too, although online subscribers are still limited to sports content and a few children’s channels.

From Dh19 per month for the basic package; connect.bein.net

Quibi

Quibi is a mobile-first streaming service, meaning its content is designed to be watched on mobile phones. A built-in feature called Turnstile allows the video to stay full screen in both portrait and landscape modes. And it's already available in the UAE.

Positioned as a rival to industry juggernauts Netflix and YouTube, the service straddles the two platforms. Any content longer than 10 minutes, such as movies, are broken down into chunks.

Sound bizarre? Well, maybe, but it has certainly come armed with plenty of star power, as Hollywood superstars such as Jennifer Lopez, Idris Elba, Sophie Turner, Chrissy Teigen and Steven Spielberg are all involved in Quibi shows.

90-day free trial, then $4.99 (Dh18) a month with advertisements and $7.99 (Dh29) for ad-free viewing

Updated: May 4, 2020 04:13 PM

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