ROME – Vice Media launched into the Middle East on Monday with its new Vice Arabia platform and its first local original production, an hour-long documentary about Arab millennials titled “Bil Arabi” (“In Arabic”).
The documentary was shot in 12 cities in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, the UAE, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, and the Palestinian occupied territories. Vice calls it an attempt to provide “an honest and unflinching lens” on young Arabs from different nationalities and walks of life, a kind of “cinematic Arab youth census” that will spawn further local productions covering “topics ranging from religion, drugs and politics through to love, media and money.”
Islam Alrayyes, editor-in-chief of Vice MENA, called the documentary “a testament to the important work we’ll aim to do at Vice Arabia in representing the many voices of young people across the region.”
Vice’s new Middle Eastern operation, announced earlier this year, is based in Abu Dhabi. It will produce lifestyle content in multiple languages including Arabic, English, Farsi, Turkish and Urdu. Content is to be translated and published across all of Vice’s global platforms, shining an international spotlight on the region but also throwing up potential challenges amid growing turbulence and fears that Arab media is being increasingly muzzled.
Alrayyes, who previously served as head of digital content at Abu Dhabi Media, will lead a team of writers, editors, directors and producers overseeing Vice Arabia’s output.
Heading the Middle Eastern operation as managing director for Vice MENA is Jason Leavy, who was previously managing director of UAE-based marketing agency Edelman Dabo. In addition to editorial and content divisions, Vice Arabia’s Abu Dhabi office will house the regional hub of its in-house ad agency, Virtue Worldwide, headed by newly appointed CEO, EMEA, Rob Newlan, formerly of Facebook.
Vice Media’s Middle Eastern launch comes as the youth-oriented company continues to expand its global footprint via multi-platform partnerships with players around the world, including Afghan media company Moby Group in the Middle East, African telecom company Econet (for Vice’s planned 2018 launch in sub-Saharan Africa), Brazil’s Globosat, and Times of India in India. Vice expects its content to go out in more than 80 territories by the end of the first quarter of 2018.