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
Apple's just-announced new streaming service, AppleTV+, is the latest in a long line of small-screen offerings to have launched in the region since MBC’s Shahid set the ball rolling in 2011.
While we wait for the pricing and availability of Apple's service to be revealed - though it is set to land in the UAE this year - we take a look at some of the most popular options available in the region.
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. OSN Play offers existing 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 the Wavo service, 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 US$9.99 (Dh36.70) per month; www.osn.com
Starz Play 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 such as Ash vs Evil Dead and Brittania can be watched here first and at the same time as they broadcast in the United States.
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.
One-month free trial and then Dh40 per month; arabia.starzplay.com
The home-grown icflix is probably familiar to readers thanks to an extensive marketing campaign that seemed to take over half of the UAE’s billboards following its launch in 2013. Like its competitors, icflix offers numerous movies and series from Hollywood, Bollywood and the Arab world. Content is available in Arabic, English and French. The icflix platform is particularly strong on Arabic content, and really stands out is with its in-house Arabic productions, including feature films and series.
Free service available, premium service offers 30 days free, then $7.99 (Dh29) per month; www.icflix.com
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, original movies such as the Will Smith comedy Bright and Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father, and a vast back catalogue of shows, movies, documentaries and more.
30-day free trial, then from Dh29 per month; www.netflix.com
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon’s service launched in the Middle East last year. It seems to have been keeping something of a low profile so far compared to the publicity drives launched by some of its competitors. Popular shows include Jeremy Clarkson and co’s post-Top Gear show The Grand Tour and dystopian drama The Man in the High Castle.
$2.99 (Dh11) for first six months, then $5.99 (Dh22) per month; www.primevideo.com
It is no surprise to find Bollywood getting in on the action, too. Eros Now is the online streaming arm of Mumbai-based 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 $7.99 (Dh29) per month; www.erosnow.com
Unlike traditional streaming services, Apple TV uses apps to provide subscribers with the content they require. Users buy an Apple TV set-top box that streams content to their TV. Users can stream content from supported apps including Major League Baseball TV, Reuters TV, Netflix and YouTube, as well as streaming movies and shows direct from iTunes.
Apple TV set-top box from about Dh608, no monthly subscription, individual apps may be chargeable; www.apple.com/ae
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.
$10 (Dh36.7) per month; connect.bein.net
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 romcoms.
Some content free, Shahid Plus $4.99 (Dh18) per month; shahid.mbc.net
Still to come
There are plenty of other global streaming services that have not received a local launch as yet. YouTube TV has been generating serious excitement in the 83 US cities where it has launched so far, bringing live TV from major US networks and cable providers, including ABC, NBC, Turner Broadcasting, Fox and Disney as well as YouTube’s Red originals.YouTube TV basically offers you a cable TV experience at a fraction of the price and is available on portable devices as well as TVs through options such as Apple TV or Google Chromecast.
In the US, YouTube TV will soon start to stream live sports games too, from the NBA, UEFA and MBL broadcasts – this is truly a streaming-service game changer.
There are no firm plans for a Middle East launch as of yet, though YouTube is hoping to begin expanding into major European markets this year.
Hulu, meanwhile, offers content from big names such as Disney, Fox and the BBC, but is currently only available in the US and Japan.
Updated: March 26, 2019 12:47 PM