Telly gets $8M, buys Dubai-based Sha Sha to launch Middle East movie service

Telly, the social video curation service formerly known as Twitvid, has secured a $8 million Series B round of financing, and it’s using some of that money to embark on an unexpected new venture: Telly recently acquired the Dubai-based premium video startup Sha Sha and is now using the team and its contracts to launch a video subscription service in the Middle East.

Telly’s Series B comes from new investors Cinemagic and Lumia Capital, as well as existing investors Azure Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Felicis Ventures, and Georges Harik. The company previously raised a $6.5 million Series A in late 2011. It’s unclear how much of that money, if any, changed hands in the Sha Sha acquisition, which closed in late October — Telly CEO Mo Al Adham didn’t want to reveal any numbers during a conversation earlier this week.

So why the Middle East? Adham told me that Telly saw huge growth for its service in that area, but didn’t know how to easily monetize those eyeballs through advertising. That’s why it decided to instead try its hand at a Netflix-like subscription video play, which the company plans to launch within the first quarter of 2014.

The offering will be available through Telly’s apps, and include access to both local and Hollywood fare. Adham didn’t want to reveal any studio partners yet, but said that titles like the Twilight series and The Hunger Games would be available to subscribers at launch — both are Lionsgate titles. He also said that Telly would like to eventually bring subscription offerings to other markets as well. “The emerging markets are really interesting,” he told me.

Adding subscription video in markets where Hollywood titles can be licensed for relatively little money adds an interesting twist to Telly, which up until now has been competing with a number of other social video aggregators. However, getting viewers used to free fare to pay up isn’t always easy — something that former Telly competitor learned the hard way when its paid offering didn’t take off, forcing the company to effectively shut down earlier this month.