Middle East operator Zain Group launched Iflix, a Malaysian video streaming provider which is rivaling Netflix in emerging markets, in five countries as part of a joint venture.
In March, Kuwait-based Zain and Liberty Global joined existing shareholders Sky, venture capital firm Catcha Group and US-based bank Evolution Media Capital to invest a total of $90 million in Iflix.
Now the service is available to Zain customers in Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan and Sudan with plans to extend the service to other markets including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Zain said the move is a key step in the development of the Zain Digital Frontier and Innovation business unit. Zain’s customers will receive complimentary unlimited access to the service for varying periods, depending on the specific deals on offer in each of its markets.
“With Zain’s 46 million customers, the joint venture will benefit from and leverage the operator’s established market leadership in conjunction with learnings Iflix acquired in consolidating its dominance throughout Asia,” Zain said in a statement.
“Zain and Iflix will work together in capitalising on the MENA’s large youth population, rapidly growing internet and smartphone penetration, and huge appetite for digital content and entertainment,” the company added.
Iflix uses propriety compression and adaptive bit rate technology to enable smooth streaming on low internet speeds. Customer numbers stand at approximately 4.5 million, and the company holds ambitions to be the equivalent of what Netflix is in the US to viewers in emerging markets.
Earlier in the month, Zain Group CEO and vice-chairman Bader Al-Kharafi said the operator will tighten its management of external influences, after currency devaluations and social unrest in several of its markets impacted first quarter earnings.