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Intigral has proven to be one of the key media and entertainment players in KSA and the MENA region, notably through its platforms Jawwy TV (also known as stc tv in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain). Telecom Review interviewed Intigral CEO Markus Golder to find out more about the company and the role that Jawwy TV is currently playing in the region.

Can you tell us more about Intigral's work and how is it navigating digital entertainment in MENA region?

Intigral is the media and entertainment arm of stc, based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, currently operating in eight markets across the MENA region. Our success in those markets is due to our strategic approach in offering premium over-the-top media services such as Jawwy TV that provides a curated and vast lineup of live TV channels, and video-on-demand titles.

Our journey began in KSA, Bahrain and Kuwait, however, over the past couple of years we have seen an exponential growth and ultimately expanded into other markets. Our focus is on improving brand awareness throughout MENA, and partnering with world-leading content providers. As a matter of fact, a recently conducted survey highlighted the positive impact of driving brand awareness in the MENA region, showing a high brand satisfaction rate of 78%. Our users have reported that content quality, ease of use and great value for money are among the top reasons they choose Jawwy TV.  

Jawwy TV is one of the products you offer. How is it building its competitiveness in a video OTT market with an increasing number of global and regional players?

As a rising OTT brand, Jawwy TV has differentiated its offering by providing a single, easy-to-use interface that allows viewers to access their favorite live channels, and movies and series in an all in one easy to access interface at any time. To give you some insight into how it works: Jawwy TV is a virtual multichannel video programming distributor that gathers content from multiple sources and offers subscribers a broad range of content on one platform by combining live TV as well as video on demand and making them available in both Arabic and English. We have more than 200 live TV channels, some of them free to air, some of them encrypted, as well as an immense library of more than 28,000 Arabic and Western titles, curated through partnerships with more than 30 content providers such as MBC, OSN, Fox, Wide Khaliji, Starz Play, Discovery and Shahid VIP.

We also support the widest range of devices that basically allows customers to access our TV service from wherever they are over any device, be it a set-top-box, a Web browser, the smartphone, or a tablet. We have also included a download-to-view facility that enables viewers to download a series or a movie to watch during a flight as an example, or even via smart TV apps and gaming consoles.

Relative to our pricing, Jawwy TV is being structured as a tiered portfolio service ranging from subscriptions as low as 15 Riyal to 60 Riyal per month (in Saudi Arabia, with varying prices in other markets). The tiers vary in terms of the number of concurrent streams, devices, video quality and other playout features, such as live TV features including live start over, and up to 14 days of rewind to enhance the consumers’ experience.

Ultimately, our strategy revolves around the subscribers as well as the entertainment community. In 2021, we ranked as the 3rd highest OTT provider that invested in Arabic content, contributing to 22% of the total Arabic Original output. Our focus is on the aggregation of high-quality content while facilitating knowledge transfer in the region with the objective of enriching the local digital entertainment sector and supporting the ambitious goals for the media industry as outlined by Saudi Vision 2030.

How are you keeping abreast with the consumer demands in a fast-changing OTT market?

The rapid advancement of high-speed connectivity and digital infrastructure has propelled video OTT services, making them the preferred choice for consumers to watch live TV and video on demand. We have invested significantly in content delivery technologies to ensure that their experience with the platform is seamless, immersive and personalized.

Such technologies enable customers’ access to premium quality viewing options through Jawwy TV’s cloud-based solutions that deliver Ultra-HD and 4K content. On the users’ side, subscribers can create multiple profiles to cater to each family member enabling us to provide customized recommendations and parental controls accordingly.

Understanding the shifts in usage and consumer preferences is really key here. Compared to satellite TV providers, we have access to a wealth of data and insights about our customer’s consumption and viewership patterns, allowing us to strategically adapt our services quickly and efficiently to meet and exceed our subscribers’ expectations and needs.

What are your areas of focus when it comes to investment in content in the future?

Content represents the largest chunk of expenses in our business, and we continue to enhance the content lineup to boost users’ engagement. We're doing so through intensifying the collaboration with our existing content partners and forging new partnerships with players currently entering the MENA region.

In addition to our best practices of aggregating high-quality content, we will also continue to secure exclusive titles relevant to MENA’s culture, which subsequently serves a dual purpose in contributing to the development of the Saudi digital entertainment sector. Since mid-2019, Intigral has produced and broadcasted a number of original shows for Jawwy TV. We are proud to be building a home-grown digital entertainment ecosystem that fosters the empowerment of local talents and brings viewers quality entertainment choices.

Where do you see the future of OTTs heading? Will we see a shift from subscription-based to ad-based services?

We anticipate continued growth and transformation relative to how viewers are consuming OTT content in the market. In fact, in 2020, the global market was valued at around US$101 billion dollars and is projected to reach over US$223 billion by 2026. The MENA region is expected to grow at an even faster pace compared to the rest of the world.

The reality is that more media outlets are launching their own OTT propositions, and consumers are subscribing to an increasing number of services in parallel. Reports from the US show an upward trend in the average number of video OTT subscriptions per household over the last couple of years, which will continue to grow in the coming years. These subscriptions to numerous services are obviously adding up as an expense and introducing complexity. That's where Jawwy TV comes in, to facilitate by bringing them all together in a one-stop-shop allowing customers to have one subscription and gain access to all their favorite content through our service through an attractive and easy-to-use interface.

At the same time, the advertising market is shifting more towards digital outlets. So, while the traditional advertising expenditure in the MENA region has dropped from about US$4 billion dollars in 2019 to just slightly over US$3 billion dollars in 2020, the online advertising market continued to show growth by 2% in the same period to $1.3 billion dollars.

While today Jawwy TV is a paid subscription-based service only, we are however considering tapping advertising in the future through specific service tiers.

What changes in viewership behavior have you witnessed during Ramadan this year?

This Ramadan, we have seen an exceptional performance on Jawwy TV, with the number of active viewers increasing compared to last year, along with total viewership hours. A particular customer trend was that live TV consumption was peaking around Iftar time between 6 pm and 8 pm, while video-on-demand has peaked between midnight and Sohur time.

We are confident that viewership numbers have spiked during this period compared to last year due to the overall proposition becoming more comprehensive, through the inclusion of the additional content we have added and intensifying our promotion of the platform.

What's in it for telecom operators in MENA working with Intigral and including Jawwy TV in their value propositions?

For telecom operators, expanding into adjacent markets such as video services is essential for monetizing their networks and building differentiation vis-a-vis their competitors, which allows them to increase their ARPU and to reduce churn. Moreover, telecom operators are often faced with having to work with multiple video OTT operators. Jawwy TV streamlines this process, allowing them to work with a single partner while providing customers access to all the content that they are looking for all in one place.

Going forward, partnerships between OTT platforms like ourselves and telecom operators will offer a win-win situation. Telecom operators bring a large customer base of connected users through a trusted brand, whilst OTT providers bring a wealth of expertise in providing exceptional digital content directly to users’ devices for a world-class viewing experience.  We also provide tailored delivery options, features and recommendation engines for the networks enabling the adoption of flexible and adaptable business models that improve sustainability and resilience for both OTT providers and carriers.

The future of content streaming remains in co-jointly working with telecom operators to offer the broadest range of content that meet the requirements of their ever changing customer segments.

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