EXCLUSIVE: Video streaming service iflix, a rival to Netflix in emerging markets, is closing down its Middle East and regional operations amid growing frustration from local distributors.
Multiple local buyers told us us they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars by the SVOD firm and that they have not been able to reach their local contacts at the company. A number of staff are understood to have been let go from regional offices, which are shuttering.
Iflix operated regionally in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan. It established ‘Iflix Arabia’ with Middle East and North Africa mobile and data services operator Zain in 2017.
The Malaysia-based outfit confirmed the exit to us and added, “Iflix and its partner, Zain, are working together to complete the wind down of the operations in the Middle East to allow iflix to focus on its core markets in Southeast Asia. We are also working with all suppliers to finalise that wind down, which has been a complex process and apologise if some people are yet to be contacted, though expect this to happen in due course. As agreed with our partner, the service will not continue in the region for the time being to allow us to focus on Southeast Asia.”
Local distributors described the company to us a useful streaming partner in the region, but buyer frustration is growing over the delay in payments and the lack of communication from the company. Legal action has been discussed.
Earlier this week, iflix announced it had raised more than $50M in its latest funding round with investors including Comcast-owned Sky, Catcha Group, Hearst, EMC, MNC, Yoshimoto Kogyo and JTBC. The firm said the money would be used to fund growth ahead of a potential IPO and that it now counted 17M active users, up from 9M six months ago.
However, the withdrawal from the Middle East follows the sale last year of the company’s Africa business, Kwesé Iflix. The platform, which hosts TV shows, movies, news and sports, operated in 30 markets last year. The exit from Middle East and Africa means that number has been halved.
Iflix says it has partnerships with more than 150 studios and distributors including a host of U.S. studios and networks. Shows to stream on the service include Mr Robot, Teen Wolf, Vikings, The Good Place and The Flash. It also produces originals.
The Middle East and North Africa region has seen considerable platform growth in recent years from services including Netflix, Amazon, beIN, Wavo, StarzPlay and Vuclip.
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