Comparison of video streaming services in the UAE

September 9, 2015

Online video streaming services have opened up a whole new opportunity especially that the UAE was rated as one of the countries that offered the fastest internet connection. Streaming on demand video has become a popular alternative for some, since it eliminates the need for physical media like DVDs or Blu-rays, and would simply need a working internet connection for you to start enjoying the service.

Netflix may be one of the most popular video streaming services available, even offering their original content. The problem is that Netflix isn’t available in the UAE and while other users find alternative means to access the service, most of the time it requires certain workarounds that other users may find confusing. The good thing though is that similar video streaming services have been made available in the country, promising to offer the same service as what Netflix does.

Huawei’s recent announcement of their own video streaming service muchTV puts it in direct competition with already established services here like icflix and Starz Play. Other services like OSN Play and even the local iTunes store offer similar content, but muchTV, icflix and Starz Play offer subscription-based models similar to Netflix that would let you watch an unlimited amount of movies and TV shows for a monthly price.

Let’s see how each one stack up against each other.


Content

All of three services offer a combination of movies and TV shows catered for the region. This includes movies from Hollywood, Bollywood and a selection of Arabic cinema.

Icflix has its own selection of Arabic-based TV shows and movies. It has even offered original Arabic content (Jazwood as it was referred to) that includes two Egyptian movies (‘HIV’ and ‘Al Makida’).

Starz Play is the regional version of its US counterpart that mostly offers Hollywood-based content. Even if the majority of its content focuses on Hollywood movies, there is still quite a selection to choose from. Everything from Marvel’s The Avengers to Django Unchained is available. TV shows like Penny Dreadful are also available.

muchTV promises to offer the same amount of international and local content. Though their service is still in beta, there is already a slowly growing list of movies and TV shows available to watch. There is even a special section of Arabic shows made for children.

One thing to consider though is that all of these services need to follow the censorship rules governed by local entities here. So titles with some adult content may be cut or censored – though it is interesting to know that Starz Play claimed that 99 per cent of their content will be uncensored.                       


Speed/Quality

Icflix streams videos in HD by default and usually loads in less than a minute with a steady internet connection. The same goes for Starz Play, and accurately displays video content in a proper aspect ratio.

muchTV has a rather different experience, video streaming quality goes from average to best, and most of the time the aspect ratio isn’t correct. I tried streaming Exorcist: The Beginning and it is such a pain to see the stretched faces of the characters when watching the movie.

All three services support Adaptive Streaming much like how YouTube has adapted the technology. This means that the quality of the video adjusts as to how fast your internet connection is.


Subtitles/Languages

All videos streaming on three services are subtitled in Arabic. On some titles, Icflix offers multiple language options much like a DVD, while Starz Play offers Arabic subtitles and sometimes Arabic dubbing on some titles, most notably kid’s cartoons. On muchTV however, most Arabic subtitles are hard-coded to the movie, and can’t be turned off.


Special Features

Icflix gives you the ability to stream up to five registered devices simultaneously along with parental controls that should aid you in controlling what your children watch.

Starz Play also supports up to five registered devices, though you can only stream to a maximum of two. It also offers parental controls and a no penalty, cancel anytime promise.

muchTV offers the same benefits, and even keeps a tab on everything that you have watched along with bookmarks so that you can start your movie right where you left off. There is even a section where you can save your favorite videos and TV shows so you can easily access them later.


Accessibility

Icflix is accessible on a wide variety of devices, including an app that you can download for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. Additionally, icflix is also accessible with some Smart TVs currently available, and can also be accessed on the Microsoft Xbox One.

Content on Starz Play is primarily accessible through its website and its accompanying apps. For iOS users, you must have iOS 8.1.3 and above or Android 4.2 and above to use the app.

muchTV is only accessible through its apps available for iOS and Android and as it still in the beta stage, you’ll regularly be prompted to update the app whenever you launch it.


Price

An icflix subscription will start at 29 AED per month, which you can definitely cancel anytime while Starz Play subscriptions start at $12.99 (about 48 AED). I wrote it in dollars since that is the currency you will be billed in. Both services offer carrier billing payment, though it only support du customers at the moment.

muchTV at the moment has not yet revealed its subscription prices, but you can now sign up for an account and start checking out their library for free.


Conclusion

For what it’s worth, each service has its own pros and cons. But the value for money on both icflix and Starz Play make it easy for users to decide on which service to enjoy. I am personally using both, and have just started checking out muchTV.

In the end, these video streaming services still pale in comparison to its US counterparts, but it is great that services like these have become available in the region.

What about you? What video streaming website you do usually use? Tell us your favorite in the comments below!

You can find out more information about these services by following the links below:

icflix – App available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone

Starz Play – App available on iOS and Android

muchTV – Apple available on iOS and Android

by Victor Philip Ortiz
Tech Enthusiast and Movie Buff. When he’s not busy playing with the latest games, Victor usually spends his time collecting Blu-rays and building his own movie library. As the Online Editor for T3 Middle East, he develops and writes content for www.T3ME.com which includes reviews, features, and videos in addition to managing its social media and web content.