STARZPLAY, the MENA SVoD service, received its first independent debt financing in the region of $25 million (€20.7m) from Abu Dhabi based Ruya Partners. The funds, secured on the basis of STARZPLAY’s financial strength and performance, will be used towards further strengthening STARZPLAY’s geographic and customer reach, acquiring and producing original content, and maximising long-term value for its stakeholders.
Ruya Partners is an independent alternative investment firm focused on private credit investments in developing markets. The firm, headquartered in the Abu Dhabi Global Market, is a portfolio investment of Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners, a joint venture between Mubadala Investment Company and Falcon Edge Capital. This investment marks the first time that STARZPLAY has attracted debt financing [from a regional investor]. It adds to the $125 million (AED 459 million) secured by STARZPLAY since its launch in 2015 from global industry investors STARZ, a Lionsgate company, and State Street Global Advisors.
Currently, STARZPLAY reaches over 1.8 million paying subscribers and is installed on more than six million devices. Accounting for a market share of more than 32 per cent, the platform recorded exceptional growth in 2020, with independent research showing an astounding growth of 141 per cent in the number of unique users during the year.
Maaz Sheikh, Co-Founder and CEO of STARZPLAY, said: “We are delighted to partner with Ruya Partners and secure its first investment. This new partnership demonstrates our ability to attract diverse, top-notch institutional investors as we continue to drive growth and ensure a path to profitability. UAE’s strong tech-entrepreneurial ecosystem, and this new investment will further strengthen STARZPLAY’s capacity to create original content, expand our geographical footprint and cement our lead status as the MENA region’s digital champion”.
“Thanks to Ruya Partners’ investment and our current shareholders, we have the foundation on which to build our plans to list STARZPLAY, and create even more shareholder value.”
Rashid Siddiqi, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Ruya Partners, said: “The financing for STARZPLAY is one of our first major investments in the tech sector in UAE. As a homegrown brand, STARZPLAY has disrupted the market and meets the increase in demand for home entertainment. The financing reflects our strategy of backing businesses with strong fundamentals and management teams that have a proven track of executing to plan and delivering long-term value.”
Karin Baggström, Co-founder and CFO of STARZPLAY, added: “The financing reflects the confidence of investors in our operating model and was secured following a strong evaluation of our business model. We follow rigorous protocols in financial management that have helped us to build our operations and create value for our stakeholders. The financing will add momentum to our growth and help secure stronger market share.”
Mirza Beg, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Ruya Partners, said: “All investment analysis conducted by Ruya Partners is based on stringent criteria and due diligence. We evaluated the business model of STARZPLAY, which shows great promise for growth, especially with the rising popularity of SVoD in the region. As a creative enterprise, backed by high-tech infrastructure, STARZPLAY’s success is an inspiring model for other UAE-based start-ups.”
STARZPLAY was the first entity to secure a licence in the UAE in the SVoD sector and has achieved significant year-on-year growth. Today the MENA region’s leading home-grown digital SVoD player, STARZPLAY has continuously focused on balanced rapid growth with sound economics, reflected in expanding margins and strong earnings year-on-year.
Named a technology company to watch by the Financial Times in its Future 25 list, STARZPLAY acquires content based on viewer preferences, insights and research. It has an extensive content library, especially box-sets, and strong studio relationships with Disney, Warner Bros, CBS, Showtime, Sony, Universal, MGM, and Fremantle. STARZPLAY has also teamed up with Image Nation Abu Dhabi, to create the first original Arabic content series.
STARZPLAY recently partnered with Discovery to launch discovery+ – the definitive non-fiction, real life subscription streaming service – across the MENA region. STARZPLAY subscribers can now watch discovery+ content within a dedicated branded area across all its platforms. In another key partnership, STARZPLAY has joined hands with Abu Dhabi Media, the UAE’s leading public service broadcaster, to stream live UFC events and give subscribers across the region an extensive VoD content library of previous fights, shows and interviews.
STARZPLAY’s success is also driven by its valuable relationships with 21 telcos offering subscription via prepaid and post-paid mobile. The strategy of STARZPLAY is to expand its successful model to emerging markets, including Sub-Saharan and Francophone Africa.
With more than 10,000 hours of premium content including blockbuster movies, exclusive TV shows, kids content and Arabic series, STARZPLAY is available in 20 countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan for fans to enjoy quality content anytime, anywhere and from any device.