Over-the-top platforms are all in, and the number of cord-cutters is rising. Ranging from Arabic to Zulu, OTT platforms have really done it all. The story’s different when compared to 2016, when most Arab families tuned into MBC Bollywood, where Bollywood serials were dubbed into Arabic. Fast forward to 2023 (pun intended), and the Arab market has changed dramatically, thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu! The old saying “content is king" stays truer than ever when it comes to the Middle East’s content consumption as more and more viewers shift to OTT platforms. But what exactly drives people's interest to become converts, and how long can one bank on this surge? Read on to learn more!

How has the growth trajectory been?

Although the ascent is slow, interest has certainly increased. According to the Middle East and Africa OTT Platform Market Research Report, key players like Netflix, Amazon, and StarzPlay are seeing tremendous growth. This is mainly due to the Middle East and its increasing connection with the digital world. Technological developments in the region have fueled this surge, with consumers opting for the premium feels that come with higher audio quality. Despite the OTT market not seeing the hype as seen in other countries, the data is said to change for the period 2022-2027. However, what exactly could spike this potential? 

Why Content is always King

Back when OTT wasn’t the hype, Arab viewers had one main priority - language. As long as the content was entertaining, the viewers only had language as a major concern. The Middle East is also best known for its love for Bollywood, and OTT platforms in the Arab region need to be adaptable to the market by providing dubbed Bollywood content, instead of primarily focusing on Hollywood blockbusters. Not to mention, Middle Eastern culture is highly dependent on sports for entertainment, and OTT platforms that provide sports content stay ahead of their competitors.


Cultural Sensitivities

OTT platforms have made it when it comes to capitalization, thanks to the censorship regulations of the Middle Eastern region! Cultural sensitivities still exist in the Middle Eastern region, and graphic expression is still frowned upon. This is where OTT platforms can cash in. While most content in the Arab world censors such expression, OTT platforms are owed freedom of expression, which pushes Arab consumers to make the shift.


The market is quite diverse, with expatriates and natives alike having different interests and standards of living. Ott platforms have a major pro here when it comes to choosing exactly what the customer wants by providing multiple tiers. The rigid “one size fits all” method doesn't work here! For example, sports OTT platforms have the option of charging by season, team, week, day, event, or even pay-by-the-hour! Ott platforms in the Middle East could also collaborate with local payment gateways for increased penetration. Keeping pricing affordable is crucial, and in-app advertising can soon resolve this issue! Since the television audience is so varied, small advertisers can target particular audiences according to demographics, giving advertisers a higher return for their money.


The brownie points

The brownie points for staying on top of your game go to simple user interfaces, multiscreen availability, and super-fast networks. With the Middle East making great strides in the digital ecosystem, the Arab audience is accustomed to a high-quality viewing experience. Whether on small or large screens, the user experience has to be phenomenal. Unique features with a simple user interface that stand apart from traditional broadcasting networks would be essential. Tracking and making use of analytics is yet another prerequisite while launching any OTT service in the Middle Eastern business market. For example, Netflix uses keyword-based content discovery to rank content according to users' interests. 

The challenge faced

Piracy is a major issue when streaming paid content. According to the data from Kearney’s analysis, over 27 million households have access to OTT platforms, with only 7 million paying for them. The reason they aren’t willing to pay can be attributed to the easy availability of pirated content. When platforms like Telegram exist, content viewers in the region do not feel pressured into taking a paid subscription. However, this would mean industry players needed to band together with specialized anti-piracy agencies to ensure the OTT wouldn’t backfire on them.