STARZ PLAY, the UAE homegrown subscription video on demand (SVOD) service and innovative digital start-up, has announced that it has acheive one million subscribers. Since inception in 2014, the business has successfully secured US$125 million in three rounds of funding, with major investors including STARZ/Lionsgate (40%), SSGA – formerly GE Asset Management (40%) and SEQ Investors, and Delta Partners and Founders/Management (20%). STARZ PLAY has secured tie ups with a host of leading, global studios including MGM, 20th Century Fox, Disney, Warner Bros, Universal and Fox International Channels.
Maaz Sheikh, CEO and Co-Founder at STARZ PLAY, said: “It’s an exciting time for STARZ PLAY – particularly our reaching one million subscribers this year. We look forward to continuing to build on our success as we progress with our expansion plans across MENA into 2019 and beyond. In an increasingly competitive space, we have managed to differentiate our offering to the benefit of the customer, through working closely with partner telecom providers to offer subscribers a payment method that does not rely only on online subscription, as well as by investing in world-class content that people want to watch and watch again.
“In 2019, we will continue to focus on the customer, and will seek to increase market share as well our subscriber base, with additional investments enabling further geographical expansion. In terms of the market, conditions are looking favourable for our sector, helping STARZ PLAY go from strength to strength, with SVOD revenues in the MENA region predicted to reach US$2.1 billion by 2024.”
Key milestones for STARZ PLAY in 2018 included: a five-year deal signing with Etisalat; the signing of a strategic partnership with eXtra; a three-year deal signing with STC/Intigral; the launch of STARZ PLAY Pakistan in September; the signing of a partnership with Samsung in October, and, securing a partnership agreement with Mobily in November.
Now available in 20 countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, with more than 10,000 hours of content including premium movies, exclusive series, Bollywood movies as well as Arabic series, STARZ PLAY has secured its place as the number one player in the MENA region in terms of online video subscriptions and online video revenues – with a leading marketshare of 24% and 31.53% respectively.
Free Fire to Celebrate 5th Anniversary with Justin Bieber
Free Fire’s 5th-anniversary celebrations are off to an exciting start as it launches a spectacular 5-part extravaganza to delight fans and players. The festivities are set to culminate on 27 August with several in-game content drops involving global icon Justin Bieber, who is headlining this special anniversary collaboration. The Free Fire community can revel and reminisce iconic anniversary celebrations over the years with the weekly rollout of 5 specially-designed chapters – Battle, Style, Map, Hero and Memory. Experience new in-game events, gain exclusive rewards, and enjoy Free Fire like never before.
Free Fire will host its first ever in-game performance on 27 August, with Justin Bieber set to debut an exclusive track “Beautiful Love (Free Fire)” as part of the 5th-anniversary celebrations. Players can look forward to immersing themselves in an interactive set-up, groove along to custom emotes, participate in minigames and potentially even perform with Justin Bieber’s avatar on stage. A permanent in-game character modelled after Justin Bieber will also be unveiled and distributed to all players.
To commemorate this unique celebration, Free Fire will also give away the highly coveted Magic Cube to players, allowing them to easily redeem their favourite exclusive costume bundles and battle in style. Players will be able to try their hand at various daily and time-limited missions, accumulating tokens which can be swapped for exclusive rewards in the exchange store. With iconic costumes and classic guns available to unlock during these missions, players can expect a nostalgic and exciting experience every day.
Expansive, dynamic maps are iconic features of Free Fire and players can look forward to the release of a new map Nexterra, which has been enhanced with various elements to elevate and diversify the battle experience for players. There will also be new game modes for players to explore, including:
- A new limited-time mode Free For All. Set against the backdrop of El Pastelo, it will simulate intense close combat point-based matches where up to 16 players will battle it out. Players will be able to select their own weapons and can obtain points by eliminating other players. Matches will be decided by the first player to accumulate a predetermined amount of points.
- An exclusive 5th-anniversary mode Droid Apocalypse, which will see 12 players compete in each match, vying to become the ultimate droid. Players will get to select their own type of droid and convert as many humans as possible before the timer runs out. When only a predetermined number of humans remain, they will transform into hunters and have enhanced stats, as well as the ability to permanently eliminate droids. Points can be gained based on performance and the player with the most points after three rounds will win the match.
New Malicious Campaign Hunts Discord Messenger Users
On July 26, using the internal automated system for monitoring open-source repositories, Kaspersky researchers identified a malicious campaign dubbed LofyLife. The campaign employed 4 malicious packages spreading Volt Stealer and Lofy Stealer malware in the open-source npm repository to gather various information from victims, including Discord tokens and credit card information, and to spy on them over time.
Volt Stealer was used to stealing Discord tokens from the infected machines along with the victim’s IP address and upload them via HTTP. The Lofy Stealer, a new development from the attackers, is able to infect Discord client files and monitor the victim’s actions – detecting when a user logs in, changes email or password details, enables or disables multi-factor authentication and adds new payment methods, including full credit card details. Collected information is also uploaded to the remote endpoint.
“Developers rely heavily on open-source code repositories – they use them to make IT-solution developments faster and more efficient and significantly contribute to the development of the IT industry as a whole. As the LofyLife campaign shows, however, even reputable repositories cannot be trusted by default – all code, including open-source code, that a developer injects into his products becomes their own responsibility. We’ve added detections of this malware to our products, so users who run our solutions will be able to identify whether they have been infected and remove the malware,” comments Leonid Bezvershenko, a security researcher at Kaspersky’s Global Research and Analysis Team.
Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) Removed From Google Play Store and Apple App Store in India
India blocked a popular battle-royale format game from Krafton Inc, a South Korean company backed by China’s Tencent, using a law it has invoked since 2020 to ban Chinese apps on national security concerns, a source said. Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) was removed from Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store as of Thursday evening in India.
The removal of BGMI, which had more than 100 million users in India, comes after India’s 2020 ban of another Krafton title, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The PUBG crackdown was part of New Delhi’s ban of more than 100 mobile apps of Chinese origins, following a months-long border standoff between the nuclear-armed rivals.
The ban has expanded since to cover more than 300 apps, including popular gaming app ‘Free Fire’, owned by Singapore’s technology group Sea Ltd. Tencent held a 13.5% stake in Krafton as of end-March through an investment vehicle, according to Krafton’s regulatory filing.
Krafton shares slumped more than 9% on the news on Friday, later paring losses to trade down 4.5% as of afternoon trade in Seoul. The company said in May India accounted for a high single-digit percentage of its revenue in the first quarter of this year.
According to news reports, a Google spokesperson said it blocked the game following a government directive. In Seoul, a Krafton spokesperson said the developer was talking to relevant authorities and companies to figure out the exact situation regarding the suspension in the two major app stores in India.
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