The year ahead for TV, by Starzplay’s Hamad Malik

Streaming services are growing, and technologies such as 5G will boost this growth and drive innovation, writes Starzplay’s chief marketing officer, Hamad Malik.


The streaming industry has been growing exponentially globally for about a decade now. Subscription revenue for streaming services is projected to grow from $121.1bn in 2019 to more than $1 trillion by 2027. In the MENA region, as well, streaming platforms have experienced sustained growth in 2020 and 2021.

Due to the core business model of premium content, no long-term subscription contracts, and a focus on end customers and not advertisers, streaming platforms are now synonymous with TV for youth in the region. While the TV and content space has evolved significantly due to Covid-19 and lockdowns in the past year, 2022 will continue to be exciting and defined by the following trends:


As video streaming is set to make up more than 80 per cent of all internet traffic, 5G will accelerate the transformation of the TV experience. Faster, reliable and (hopefully) cheaper internet will further drive the adoption of streaming platforms. A recent PwC report highlighted that about 29 per cent of consumers are willing to pay more for better quality of streaming, and 5G will help achieve that. The most significant impact would be on streaming live sports, as transmission delays are estimated to be reduced to about 1 millisecond. 5G will also facilitate the consumption of 4K, virtual reality and 360-degree live broadcasting. In the region, we can already see changes with rights for popular sports such as football and cricket that have traditionally been on pay TV or free-to-air being acquired by streaming platforms.


When it comes to TV viewing or streaming, the convenience of how one accesses content is important. In 2022, we will see the rise of streaming service aggregators that will help address the challenge of content fragmentation, which we witnessed in the past two years as many content providers sought to launch their services directly in select markets. From a B2B perspective, it would be cost-efficient to partner with established platforms rather than go solo, especially for niche brands. As regional streaming platforms try to evolve as one-stop shops, customers will get more value through a single-point subscription.


It is said that content is king and user interface and experience is the queen. For UI and UX, three things are key to success. Firstly, UI must become more intuitive and navigation made simpler. Secondly, UX must incorporate more personalisation. Thirdly, content discovery must be more seamless and less time-consuming. Many platforms acquire subscribers by showcasing compelling content but fail to retain them due to cumbersome UI/ UX. In 2022 and beyond, UI and UX will be central to the success of streaming platforms.


In the GCC, around 90 to 95 per cent of the televisions being sold are smart TVs, and they are becoming cheaper. The new year will see the emergence of smart TVs as the primary device on which content will be consumed. Even in North Africa, consumers are shifting to smart and connected TVs, which will further drive the growth of streaming services.


Lastly, localisation of streaming services will be a major driver for success. Localisation at multiple levels will determine success as customers expect multi-language options, easy payment options and even the right language and dialect in subtitling. Small things such as charging in the local currency tend to influence decision-making in the MENA region. At Starzplay, we have observed how partnering with local telecom partners and providing the ability to pay through them in local currency can increase market access.

In addition to the above, exceptional content, including original programming, will continue to drive subscriptions for streaming platforms.