Iflix Makes Splash in Middle East With First Arabic Original ‘Tough Luck’

Egyptian sitcom features more than 40 Arab A-listers

Six months after launching into the Middle East expanding streaming service iflix is making a splash with its first Arabic online original, a Cairo-set comedy of errors titled “Tough Luck” packed with local stars.

After launching on iflix during Ramadan this past May, “Tough Luck,” which is set in a run-down Cairo tenement where residents are struggling with a crumbling wall, scooped the nod for the year’s best OTT production during Dubai’s annual Arab States Broadcasting Union BroadcastPro ME Selevision Summit this weekend.

The nods celebrate broadcasting industry excellence in the Middle East and North Africa.

Co-produced by iflix with Dubai-based Front Row Filmed Entertainment, the Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC) and Cairo-based Shadows Communications, the sit-com features dozens of Arab A-listers such as Egyptian stars Sharif Ramzi, Ahmed Helmy, Mona Zaki, Fify Abdo and Jordan’s Mai Selim.

The show is being touted as a game-changer for several reasons. It signals a shift in the Arab scripted content landscape which has been dominated by free TV and pay-TV, especially during the peak Ramadan period; it brought a new OTT player, iflix, together with a prominent indie film distributor, Front Row; and it marks the first time an Egyptian series comprises more than 40 of the Arab world’s biggest stars.

“We are humbled and thrilled to receive this special award from Broadcast PRO Middle East, the region’s most eminent industry body,” said Nader Sobhan, head of iflix MENA, commenting the nod for “Tough Luck” in a statement. Sobhan vowed that more local iflix original productions will be coming soon.

Front Row chief Gianluca Chakra noted that “the region is hungry for local original content,” adding that his company is currently developing several projects with new Middle East talents focussed on “challenging and thought-provoking material” in an effort not just to attract new viewers in the region but also to create an international appetite.

Lack of localisation is considered a key factor stunting the growth in the Middle East of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which also launched in 2016 in the region where both are struggling to rack up subscribers. The two global streaming giants together will account for a mere 21% of the MENA market in 2017, according to a recent report from from IHS Markit.

Since launching in the Middle East in 2016 the only Arabic original announced so far by Netflix is a stand-up comedy special with Lebanese comedian and actor Adel Karam.

Iflix launched in Asia in 2015. positioning itself as a low-cost alternative to Netflix in emerging markets. With a subscriber base of just under 5 million and a $90-million infusion from such investors as Sky and Liberty Global, Iflix in May expanded into the Middle East and North Africa through a joint venture with Kuwait-based telco Zain.

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