×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

More Digital

  • ‘Bumblebee’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Bumblebee’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Bumblebee.” Ads placed for the sci-fi/action film had an estimated media value of $6.31 million through Sunday for 941 national [...]

  • Kathreen Khavari

    Kathreen Khavari Tapped by Refinery29 for 'Embrace' Comedy Pilot

    Refinery29 will begin production in 2019 on “Embrace,” a pilot from writing duo Kathreen Khavari (“Big Little Lies”) and Chuck Neal. “Embrace” will star Khavari as she comes up with an unconventional solution to prevent her Iranian immigrant parents from having to move back to Iran. Refinery29 bills the show, set in Khavari’s hometown of [...]

  • Outlander Season 4

    Starz Available for $5 a Month for Three Months Through the Holidays

    Starz is having an online holiday sale: The premium cable network is selling three months of its online streaming service for $5 per month, down from the regular price of $8.99 per month. The offer is available to new users who sign up until the end of December. Subscribers also get a 7-day free trial, [...]

  • Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg Strictly

    Listen: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Meg Whitman Go Long on Short-Form Entertainment

    One is a legend in the media business, the other in the tech world. But together Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman are intent on bringing the best of both worlds together for their ambitious new venture: Quibi. On the latest episode of the Variety podcast Strictly Business, the dynamic duo shared their battle plan to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content