Netflix's Jinn will Revolutionise Arabic Content
SOURCE: KHALEEJ TIMES
Streaming services in the Middle East are competing for Arab audiences with US giant Netflix releasing its first Arabic production on June 13, chasing a slice of a potentially lucrative market.
Streaming platforms Starz Play and Wavo have emerged in recent years as local competitors to Netflix, while giant Saudi-owned TV powerhouse MBC Group announced plans for original productions as well as the acquisition of international content to boost its streaming services Shahid and Shahid Plus.
These platforms are locked in a battle to attract millions of Arab viewers throughout the year.
An estimated 85 percent to 90 percent of people across the Middle East watch television, while between 25 percent and 30 percent watch streaming video online with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, according to Mukul Krishna, head of digital media at US-based research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Netflix will debut on June 13 Jinn its first production in Arabic.
Filmed in Jordan, the show is a supernatural drama that follows a group of teenagers who encounter two jinns – or supernatural figures – during a field trip to the historic city of Petra.
It will be full of intrigue and adventure, the company promises.
“Jinn is Netflix’s first Middle Eastern original series which will bring Middle Eastern folklore to the modern world,” Savas said.
“We are very excited to see it come to life.”
Netflix declined to disclose the number of subscribers it has in the region.
But, according to Savas, the streaming giant has “ramped up our focus on the Middle East”.
Netflix has announced plans for a second Middle Eastern original series, Al Rawabi School for Girls but it remains unclear when the show will be released.
“Written and directed by Jordanian screenwriter and director Tima Shomali, the show tells the story of a bullied high school girl,” said Savas.
The company also announced in May a third Arabic original production called Paranormal based on novels bearing the same title by Egyptian writer Ahmed Khaled Tawfiq.
Netflix originals in languages other than English, such as Money Heist in Spanish, have proved popular with international audiences.
“It is great to not only invest in local Middle Eastern content, but also to create a global audience for local language shows,” Savas said.
Several streaming platforms offer production in Arabic like OSN Play of the OSN television network and Wavo which is backed by OSN. But Starz Play remains the main competitor for Netflix in this region with its one million subscribers.
Starz Play is trying to make streaming more relevant and convenient to viewers, said Sheikh from his Dubai office.
“We specialise in Hollywood content, but over time we have added Arabic content and Bollywood content to our service,” he said.
Starz Play is showing a number of popular series currently unavailable on Netflix in the Gulf region including The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy and the Marvel superheroes shows, attracting large audiences. AFP