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The New Arab

Disney+ streaming launches in Middle East as coronavirus forces region's residents to stay at home

Disney+ will not launch as a standalone service, Disney says [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 April, 2020

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A whole new world of content will be available to streamers in the Middle East, after regional network signed an agreement, granting it Disney+ content distribution rights on its platform.
OSN, a regional entertainment network, has sealed an unprecedented third-party deal with Disney, allowing it to stream shows from Disney+, as the coronavirus pandemic forces people across the region to lock down, leaving millions hungry for home entertainment.

The content will be available to streaming audiences in the Middle East for the first time, Reuters reported Thursday.

OSN, which has its headquarters in Dubai, provides streaming services in 17 markets – including Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with a subscribtion charge of $4.99 per month.

Disneyplus’ action adventure series “The mandalorian” is among shows that will be available to OSN subscribers, the report said. 

Read also: Gulf contries ban pixar film over LGBT reference

OSN already had some content from Disney, but will be adding original content made for Disney+ on April 9.

William Mullally, a film critic and TV broadcaster based in the UAE told The New arab. “That’s basically why the deal happened,” he added.

According to Mullally, some other shows OSN’s subscribers will also be able to watch include The High School Musical: The Musical and Marvel’s Hero Project. 

Disney’s Marvel shows WandaVision, Loki, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which are yet to debut on Disney+, will also be made available once they’re available to stream, Mullally said. 

Although Disney+ content will be available to stream on OSN, Disney+ will not be launching as a standalone service in the Middle East “any time soon,” Reuters cited Walt Disney Regional Lead Amit Malhotra as saying.

Disney is also set to launch its on-demand streaming service – available internationally for $7 a month in about a dozen markets – in India on April 3.

Fanatics of the media conglomerate’s original movies and series have long-awaited the day. A twitter search reveals thousands of tweets to @disneyplus asking for the subscription-based streaming service to be extended to the Middle East.

The number of tweets surged after coronavirus containment measures –  including curfews and strict self-isolation instructions – rolled out across the middle east in March.

“Please we’re quarantining as well and we’d love to watch @Disney movies to cheer us up at this horrible time,” Khawtar Suleima tweeted from Lebanon on March 27.

The Rocketeers, an animated Disney Junior TV program featured a character with Lebanese origins, is one of the many series available to stream on Disney+. The New Arab could not confirm if the show would be avilable for on-demand stream on OSN.

As more people have been forced to stay at home due to the coronavirus lockdown, pay television and online usage have surged, increasing online sales, OSN's Chief Executive Patrick Tillieux told Reuters. 

The deal may give rise to competition with Netflix, which extended its services to the Middle East in 2016. 

According to Reuters, OSN restructured the company in 2019, shedding more than 60% of a workforce of 2,300 and generating a revenue of about $500 million a year.

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