Access Alert | Disney+ Launch in MENA from a Regulatory Compliance Perspective

Access Alert | Disney+ Launch in MENA from a Regulatory Compliance Perspective

Disney+, the in-house streaming service of the global entertainment giant Disney, is officially launching in 16 markets across the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. On June 8, 2022, subscribers within the region will have the opportunity to watch content ranging from Disney’s Snow White to Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.

Increased Market Competition

Streaming video has become competitive with a growing number of players pursuing opportunities in the region such as Disney+, AppleTV, Amazon Prime Video, OSN, and Netflix, among others. Amid the recent downturn of Netflix with a significant loss of subscriptions for the first time in over a decade and the stock price dropping to 35%, a race has emerged regarding which streaming platform(s) that will be dominant in the MENA markets as well as globally. Importantly, on top of this, video streaming service providers face regulatory developments that are rapidly evolving in line with regional digital transformation efforts.

Regulatory Landscape 

From a regulatory compliance perspective, several laws and regulations are of great significance and will require video streaming companies’ careful manoeuvring moving forward.

In key markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, regulators are on top of prominent digital transformation issues. In Saudi Arabia, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has published the second draft of the Digital Platforms Content Regulation, which requires video OTT platforms, among other platform/service providers, to obtain a registration certificate and comply with content regulations and rulings by competent authorities, although it remains unclear how strict CITC will be regarding content-related undertakings prescribed in Annex 1 of the regulation. Furthermore, CITC has recently published a public consultation on the draft Net Neutrality Regulations, which seeks to protect consumer rights to lawfully permissible content, safeguard local content providers’ non-discriminatory access to the market, promote competition, and ensure service providers continue to have control of their operations. The Net Neutrality Regulations will also establish a framework for content classification, referred to as “content class” including Video OTT Platforms, social media, gaming, audio streaming, among others.

In the UAE, on the other hand, the Media and Content Regulations Framework includes several laws and regulations, where the most important are the National Media Council’s Content Guidelines, the Media Cabinet Resolution of 2017 with its accompanying digital regulations of 2018, TRA’s Prohibited Content Categories, the 2015 Discrimination Law, and the 2012 Cybercrime Law. The Digital Regulations of 2018 under the 2017 Cabinet Resolution Concerning Media Content establishes a licensing regime and applies to any online activity that involves digital advertising, digital publishing, and the selling of video and audio material.

The above regulations, both in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are first of their kind in MENA and are likely to dictate other countries’ approach to similar legislation in the region. Access Partnership is closely monitoring market opportunities and regulatory considerations in the region.

If you are interested in learning more about regulatory obligations for video streaming (or other services) in MENA, or require support in engaging regional regulators, contact Anja Jeanette Engen at [email protected] or Hussein Abul-Enein at [email protected]

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