On Thursday, Abu Dhabi-based investment companies ADQ and E-Vision (a subsidiary of e&), and Starz announced the signing of a binding agreement in which ADQ and E-Vision will jointly acquire a majority stake of 57% in Starzplay Arabia.
Starzplay Arabia is an international video-on-demand subscription service that operates in 60-plus countries, spun off from Starz’ now-discontinued U.S.-based on-demand service Starzplay.
Under the agreement, the consortium, led by e&, will acquire the controlling stake valued at approximately $420 million. The consortium will also, per the announcement, invest “E-Vision’s existing stake and secondary investments to join the other existing shareholders, including STARZ and SEQ Investors.”
Starz and its parent company, Lionsgate, stake in the company will decline from about 30% to 13% as part of the transaction, and the company will continue to honor content licensing agreements for Starzplay Arabia. The deal awaits “certain administrative procedures” as well as final regulatory approval.
Starzplay Arabia claims 2 million subscribers across 19 countries. With the E-Vision/ADQ investment, content from both companies will be added to the service. The consortium also said Starzplay Arabia “will also gain significant scale through immediate access to e&’s vast customer base.”
“We’re proud of what Maaz and the team have built over the past few years, creating one of the pre-eminent SVOD platforms in the Middle East and North Africa. StarzPlay Arabia marked our first international initiative at a time when streaming internationally was still nascent. It served as a template for growth that allowed us to rapidly scale the StarzPlay brand around the world now in over 60 countries. We’re pleased to continue our productive partnership with E-Vision while adding ADQ to the venture, partners whose local market expertise will help us continue to accelerate the growth of the business together and create enormous value,” Jeffrey Hirsch, President and Chief Executive Officer of Starz, said.
“StarzPlay Arabia is a leading video streaming platform in MENA. This acquisition is a major milestone for E-Vision and will be a catalyst for the newly formed e& life consumer digital vertical in e&. This investment further strengthens our service offering and significantly enhances StarzPlay Arabia’s positioning across the entire MENA region. Streaming platforms have drastically changed the way we consume media and have become commonplace in households around the world. Consumer expectations have also grown in line with this expansion as the demand for high-quality content and seamless streaming continues to rise,” Khalifa Al Shamsi, CEO of e& life and Chairman of E-Vision, said.
“StarzPlay Arabia is a great platform for us to work closely with to customise the content options for our customers. With 5G’s super-fast download speeds and low latency, we have the perfect opportunity to drive the streaming experience to new heights with viewers being able to have immersive experiences within their favorite shows and movies using Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). This new development is expected to accelerate E-Vision’s transition from focusing on the telecom network business to providing also Direct to Consumer (DTC) streaming services to consumers across the MENA region,” Al Shamsi added.
“The investment in StarzPlay Arabia provides ADQ access to one of the leading Subscription Video on Demand and OTT service providers in the region. With its state-of-the-art technology, distribution strength and compelling and engaging content, StarzPlay Arabia has developed a unique market positioning in the MENA region and is well positioned for further growth,” Jaap Kalkman, Group Chief Investment Officer at ADQ, said.
“StarzPlay Arabia has transformed the region’s entertainment sector, bringing truly homegrown competencies to serve the fast-growing demand for streaming services. The investment by E-Vision and ADQ will enable us to grow further by focusing on original content production and advanced customer personalisation. We thank them for their trust in our vision as well as our shareholders STARZ and SEQ Investors for originally backing our idea and enabling us to turn our start-up aspirations into a flourishing business reality. Their continued support, along with the exceptional strengths that E-Vision and ADQ bring, will enable us to further establish our credentials as the region’s entertainment champion,” Maaz Sheikh, Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder of StarzPlay Arabia, said.