Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Free Arabic movies from Istikana after ART deal

Istikana.com, a fledgling online TV service, has signed a deal with ART to show Arabic movies for free via the web.

A regional internet TV service has signed a deal with ART, one of the Middle East's oldest broadcasters, to show Arabic movies free of charge via the Web.

Istikana.com, which launched last March, said it would show one film a week starting tomorrow, until the end of the year.

The deal currently includes the rights to about 30 movies, and could be extended beyond the end of the year, said Samer Abdin, the co-founder of Istikana.

"We've signed a long-term content deal with ART - Arab Radio and Television - to have access to their movie library," he said.

"We'll have movies every Thursday from now until the end of the year under this deal, with more to come following that."

Mr Abdin said the deal with ART was on a "revenue-share basis", without giving further details. Executives from ART did not respond to a request for comment.

Many of the films are Egyptian, with the first entitled The Bellydancer and the Drummer, which was made in the 1980s.

Istikana has deals with about 25 content suppliers, and its content includes many older TV series. The Jordanian television production company Arab Telemedia Group is one of its partners.

The deal with ART - one of the biggest owners of Arabic content in the world - marks the first time Istikana has featured cinematic movies online.

Like the current TV shows on the site, the films will be free to watch. Istikana derives its revenues from advertising, which Mr Abdin said was "growing steadily", without giving figures. "It's going OK. There's still a lot of room for growth in terms of the level of adoption of things like video advertising," he said. Istikana currently has about 3,000 hours of entertainment available online, with another 1,500 to 2,000 hours ready to be uploaded. Its videos can be watched on a PC, smartphone or tablet.

"We sign a new bit of content on a weekly basis almost. We've been very busy," said Mr Abdin.

There is strong demand for online video in the Arab region. Users in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait reportedly have the highest per-capita viewing rate of YouTube videos in the world.

A few regional contenders specialising in Arabic online video have sprung up - although they have not yet gained the prominence of sites such as Hulu and Netflix in the US. These include Shahid.net - which is run by MBC, the largest broadcaster in the Arab world - and sites such as Shofha.com and Arabia.tv.

This month, the Dubai pay-TV operator OSN started streaming hundreds of hours of television shows and movies via the Web.

The OSN Play service is initially available via PCs, but is set to launch on tablets, smart TVs, smartphones and some gaming consoles. Mr Abdin said he welcomed the OSN Play service, but said Istikana - which specialises in library TV content - was run according to a different business model to what he described as "catch-up" online TV services.

"We're not competing with the catch-up sites," he said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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Updated: March 28, 2012 04:00 AM

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