Netflix launches in the UAE
The service was launched with the offer of a one-month free trial, after users provide their credit card information.
Afterwards, the service is offered at three different prices, ranging from Dh30 to Dh44 a month, depending on the streaming quality and the number of screens able to watch at the same time.
The number of Netflix programmes and films available in the UAE is pared down compared with content available for subscribers in the United States. Notable exceptions include The Office, Lost and Dexter, all missing from the listing on the UAE website.
Hit series House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, both produced by Netflix, are also unavailable to UAE subscribers.
Some content may not be available in the UAE through Netflix as a result of licensing arrangements.
"A lot of content is gradually being made available to our subscribers in the UAE, we aim to being [sic] the leading streaming service provider," Netflix UAE said on Twitter on Thursday.
Netflix's vice president for communications, Joris Evers, said the UAE launch would be followed by additional programming.
"Today is day one for Netflix in the Middle East. We will be learning from our new members starting now and will be growing our offering significantly," he said.
Without offering a timeline, he said original Netflix titles such as The Get Down, The Crown, Marvel's Daredevil, Marvel's Luke Cage, War Machine, and Fuller House would soon be available, as well as other films, documentaries and children's programmes.
The launch announcement was made by the company's chief executive, Reed Hastings, during the CES 2016 technology show in Las Vegas.
"You are witnessing the birth of a global TV network," Mr Hastings said.
Chief content officer Ted Sarandos said: "With the internet, global distribution no longer needs to be fragmented. It means that everyone pretty much everywhere should be able to see great films or TV shows at the exact same moment.
"The technology is there. It's business models that now stand in the way."
The worldwide launch came earlier than expected - until now the firm had been expanding into markets incrementally, with plans to reach a global audience set for the end of this year.
Last month Mr Evers told The National that Netflix's ambition was "to be global by the end of 2016, and obviously that includes this region".
The company said it was still attempting to expand into China, one of the few countries where its online services remain unavailable. Other such countries included North Korea and Syria, where it is prohibited to operate under US law.
As part of its launch Netflix is now available in Arabic, Korean, and Chinese, taking the total number of languages supported to 21.
With the changing production landscape and companies such as Netflix creating their own content, the company has left the door open to the prospect of producing programmes in Arabic, Mr Evers said.
"We look for experienced creators with great stories to tell from all over the world," he said. "We're already making series and films in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Italy, Mexico and the UK, and are always on the lookout for new and compelling projects that would appeal to a global audience.
"This includes the Arabic world."
Abu Dhabi resident Jyoti Singhal said her family first subscribed to Netflix while living in the United States more than 10 years ago, when the company was renting DVDs by mail.
"There aren't many options for UAE residents as of now," she said, adding that she had not been impressed with the selection of content available from existing streaming providers.
"It is our familiarity with Netflix, our long history and the way you can pause video, the recommendations you get - really a world class service - that makes me choose it over other options.
"I am really excited about Netflix coming to the UAE."
Sabah Naseer Sethi, also from Abu Dhabi, said he was looking forward to having the chance to access its exclusive library, which can not be found on television or other online streaming sites.
"The standards of entertainment [in the UAE] have certainly gone up, but there is room for improvement and Netflix is a step forward," she said.
Published: January 7, 2016 04:00 AM