STARZPLAY: Shooting for the Stars
In mid-2021, Maaz Sheikh, cofounder and CEO of STARZPLAY, a Dubai-based subscription video on demand (SVOD) provider that catered to the Middle East and North Africa region, was wrestling with how to find the right balance between continued subscriber growth and profitability. Founded in 2015, the company was the first major SVOD player in the region providing high quality and affordable Hollywood content. STARZPLAY rapidly grew its subscriber base through a business model sensitive to the varied tastes and payment preferences of households in the region and was able to maintain leadership even after global players like Netflix and well-funded homegrown companies entered the market. At the time of the case, several U.S. major studios, including the likes of Disney, Paramount, and HBO, were in talks with local operators about potential partnerships. Sheikh needed to prepare an appealing proposal, knowing full well that other regional players were likely doing the same and that these studios might decide to enter independently. He had to think carefully about the company's brand position and its plans regarding content, pricing and payment options, and marketing spend in order to fuel continued growth, while managing the increasing pressure from investors to drive the business toward profitability. Sheikh and his management team had big ambitions for STARZPLAY. What would be the plan that ensured the company continued to prosper despite the mounting competition?