The COVID-19 pandemic has been a boon for streaming services, whether subscription-based or ad-based. Global players have seen double and even triple-digit growth since 2020, while the number of users is expected to continue to grow, with the subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) segment expected to reach 1.48 billion users. users by 2026, according to Statista. .
Amid such growth, there has been a flurry of streaming platform startup activity as investors see the potential for niche and specialized content among more mainstream streaming offerings.
Dr. Kashif Zuberi, a surgeon raised in Toronto, Canada, and his brothers had noticed the gap in the Muslim content market before the pandemic. “We were always talking about having a platform for Muslim content producers that a particular [audience] research niche. Look at Netflix, HBO and others, they’re very broad and general, not seeming to have sections for other ethnicities or religions,” Zuberi told Salaam Gateway in Los Angeles.
At the end of 2020, Zuberi and his brothers started working on developing projects to design the website and create streaming content. The platform, USHUB.TVwas launched in November 2021.
The content is diverse, with more than 75% films, shows and documentaries, the rest leaning towards lectures. “People think Islamic streaming services are just a bunch of lectures and sermons, but we don’t want to give that vibe,” said Zuberi, president of USHUB. “We try to appeal to the masses the same way Netflix does. It is not necessarily 100% Islamic, but the culture of mainly Muslim people.
USHUB aims to highlight the cultural diversity of the world’s nearly 2 billion Muslims through both fiction and non-fiction, as well as through Islamic-themed children’s content. Content on the platform is primarily in English, with voice acting and subtitles used for non-English content. “Many people don’t like to read subtitles, so we are focusing on English for greater appeal. Also, many Muslims outside of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) speak English,” Zuberi added.
USHUB is subscription-based, but offers a 14-day free trial to entice users. “The goal is that with an ongoing subscription, we can cover the cost of content. Right now it’s a personal cost,” Zuberi said.
The Zuberi have pumped around $1 million into the platform, with the biggest cost of acquiring content and paying for original content through its production arm. So far, the platform has over 100 individual titles and over 500 individual content items, including episodes of shows. There are seven original productions, and two in post-production, three in development and four in the works to shoot this year. The platform contains content from over 60 Muslim creators and production companies, with over 40 countries represented.
After launching just before the Christmas season, “most of December went according to plan,” Zuberi said, but the platform is seeing a spike in interest in 2022. USHUB has so far attracted 300 paying subscribers and another 500 subscribers through the free service. test. “We hope to be able to reach at least a point that covers the costs, so at least 10,000 subscribers,” Zuberi said.
To raise the profile of the platform, USHUB works with advertising and marketing companies, primarily in North America and the UK. He advertises on the UK’s Islam Channel, which has a global reach, and with Saudi Arabia’s MBC Network, which is popular across the MENA region.
The platform is available on streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire Stick. “As we generate more funds, we can have our own programs and have the platform on the likes of Samsung TV and LG TV, which requires more investment and has to be built from the ground up. “, Zuberi said.
Given the high costs of producing original content and to better compete with other streaming services, USHUB must seek Series A funding this year. “We have to compete with Netflix, which is what people are going to compare you to, which is ridiculous because their budget is in the multi-billion dollar range, but that’s the benchmark,” Zuberi said.
Netflix has an annual budget of $17 billion for original content and has 222 million subscribers, according to to the New York Times, while total global spending on content by streaming services was $200 billion in 2021, according to Amps Analysis.
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