All the Global VOD Platforms and Festivals Offering Free Content During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, regional VOD players, platforms and festivals from continental Europe to the Middle East and beyond are serving up a wide range of free movies and TV shows to market their product or simply reach captive audiences. 

Dubai-based broadcaster MBC Group on Thursday became the latest operator to launch a pandemic special, offering free one-month premium subscriptions to its pan-Arab Shahid VOD service.

Italy, which is the country hardest hit by the virus in Europe, is seeing a proliferation of free services ranging from local streamer TIMVision, which will soon carry Disney Plus, to the vintage cinema archives of national film entity Institute Luce, to PornHub. 

Below is a compendium of several content offers being made to the millions of people staying at home in various parts of the globe.

Middle East
MBC’s Shahid VOD platform, which operates in 23 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, is offering new users a one-month free Shahid VIP subscription starting Friday 20 March.

The premium package comprises Hollywood content from Disney, Marvel and Fox alongside an increasing number of Arabic originals.

Among this month’s local standouts are televised play “The Wolf in the Heart” (pictured) which marks Saudi comedy icon Nasser Al-Qasabi’s return to theatre after 30 years, and high-end Arabic crime show “Blood Oath,” written by Britain’s Tony Jordan (“EastEnders,” “Life on Mars”).

TIMVision, which on March 24 will start carrying DisneyPlus, is offering free access to its premium service until April 15, though it’s not clear whether the offer will include Disney Plus.

Paybox Sky Italia is basically offering free upgrades from its basic package to premium. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video, which initially announced free service within Italy’s so-called red zone in the North, subsequently back-pedalled and pulled the offer when the entire country went on lockdown, sparking criticism from several Italian media outlets.

Pornhub, by contrast, is offering all Italians free access to its Pornub Premium service and also donating March proceeds from its Modelhub subdivision to support Italy.

French pay-TV group Canal Plus has announced its basic service is free for the next two weeks during the country’s lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, while subscribers are getting free upgrades.

Telefónica, the country’s top telco, is upgrading its Movistar pay-TV platform packages with extra free content, adding free children’s programming and sports, and offering free service for a month to new customers via its Movistar Plus Lite app. Filmin, which is Spain’s top VOD platform is giving away 5,000 free subscriptions to watch movies that screened at the Atlàntida Film Fest, which it organizes.

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) is providing free access on its website to more than 300 docs released between 1988 and 2019.

South Africa
Showmax, a leading VOD platform owned by South Africa’s MultiChoice Group has announced it’s offering 49% off a three-month subscription to its streaming service, touting an effort to encourage more South Africans to stay home while also boosting its business prospects once the offer expires.

Elsa Keslassy, Jamie Lang, and Christopher Vourlias contributed to this report.

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