Middle East streaming video on demand (SVoD) service Starzplay has partnered with Kuwait-based multinational operator Zain Group to offer easier payment options for subscribers. Starzplay expects to accelerate customer acquisition through direct carrier billing integration with Zain in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. The move marks Starzplay’s first integration in Iraq, providing seamless access to its video content for Zain’s 15.7 million customers across the country.
Prepaid as well as postpaid users can watch Starzplay’s content straight from their phone, or else at home via smart TV devices or games consoles.
Carrier billing for apps or entertainment content has proved popular in many markets. With most of those that we have written about, ease and convenience have been the major factors in their uptake among consumers. A one-click approach to making such purchases, along with the comfort factor of conducting business through one’s operator, with which one has built-in trust, has tended to drive the increases in purchasing that gratify operators and participating partners alike. In this case with Zain and Starzplay, however, there is another factor at work, in addition to the abovementioned.
In the Middle East and North African markets (MENA), many subscribers to mobile services do not have credit cards, and a smaller though significant number do not even have bank accounts. This is especially true of younger people—an age group with a strong interest in SVoD products. Among these users, though, there is a high penetration of smartphones. Therefore, a company such as Starzplay can maximize its success with this target demographic by approaching them through their mobile service providers and making it possible for them to purchase the video service via their mobile accounts, without need for credit cards, debit cards or bank accounts.
Young users have been shown not only to be major consumers of video entertainment content, but also to have a particular preference for viewing it on an on-demand basis. The element of choice—not only in entertainment content but in mobile plan features and a plethora of other market phenomena—is especially characteristic of this demographic. Therefore, it is an excellent idea for MNOs and their enterprise partners to recognize this fact and tailor as many offerings to it as possible. For Zain and Starzplay to make the carrier billing option available to prepaid as well as postpaid users is in line with this strategy, as prepaid plans tend to predominate among younger users, for reasons of budget and freedom alike.
We expect that this offering will benefit Starzplay in terms of increased subscriptions, Zain in terms of revenues from fees and in terms of increased customer loyalty and of course the subscribers in terms of satisfaction with both the product and their MNO.