You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lack of Local Content Hamstrings Netflix, Amazon in Middle East

Just as Netflix was launching in the Middle East two years ago, its chief content officer Ted Sarandos told a Dubai Film Market panel that he was keen for the streaming giant to find great local storytellers and talent that could generate a Netflix original scripted series about contemporary life in the region. But that has yet to happen.

The only Arabic original announced so far by Netflix is a stand-up comedy special with Lebanese comedian and actor Adel Karam.

Lack of localization is considered to be holding back Netflix and Amazon Prime Video’s growth in the Middle East; both launched in 2016 and are said to be struggling to rack up subscribers in the region. The two global streaming giants together will account for a mere 21% of the Middle East and North Africa market in 2017, according to a recent report from research and analysis firm IHS Markit.

Meanwhile, local streaming brands Icflix, Seevii, OSN’s Wavo and MBC’s Shahid Plus, as well as smaller international streamers such Starz Play Arabia, iflix and Viu, “are all expected to contribute significantly to the market in the coming years,” according to the IHS Markit report by analyst Max Signorelli. He notes that no single player has the optimal mix of content and accessibility. But sees “greater investment in local content” as one of the crucial factors to gaining the upper hand.

Most of Netflix and Amazon Prime’s competitors in the Middle East can boast an edgy original scripted series rooted in present-day Arab reality.

OSN recently picked up groundbreaking show “Qalb Al Adala” (“Justice”), which is inspired by “L.A. Law” but based on real cases from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Dept. Written by Emmy Award-winning U.S. producer William Finkelstein in collaboration with a local team, it is produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi in tandem with L.A.-based Parkes/MacDonald Prods.
MBC has produced “Black Crows,” the first series set in the world of the Islamic State, which dramatizes life under ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Iflix has produced “Tough Luck,” a comedy of errors packed with Arab stars about residents of a dilapidated tenement of Cairo’s renowned 5th district who attempt in vain to fix a crumbling building.
Starz Play Arabia has plans to soon announce an Arabic-language original.

Netflix, which is expected to attend the upcoming Dubai Film Market, is believed to be having a tough time finding the elements they deem can provide an Arabic show enough heft to play globally, according to sources. That is understandable since, unlike Turkish dramas, Arabic TV content rarely travels, and even movies from the region only get occasional international arthouse exposure. How Netflix navigates the Middle East will be particularly interesting to watch.

More TV


    TV Review: ABC's Live 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons'

    In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before reboot and revival fever manifested as verbatim repeats — but if TV’s gonna go there, bringing back eerily timely shows like “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” is the way to do it. That Norman Lear’s comedies are timely, or at least prescient, is [...]

  • WGA Agents Packaging Fight Placeholder

    Judge in Writers Guild Suit Against Agencies Replaced Again

    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine W. Mandel has replaced Craig D. Karlan to handle the Writers Guild of America’s lawsuit against Hollywood’s four major talent agencies. Mandel was appointed Wednesday. She is the third judge assigned to the case, which was filed April 17 by the WGA against CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners [...]

  • Andy Cohen Desperate Housewives E

    TV News Roundup: Bravo Announces First Ever BravoCon

    In today’s roundup, Bravo announces its first ever BravoCon and the trailer for the fourth season of “Queen Sugar” dropped.  DATES The buddy comedy “Partners in Wine,” starring Lauren White and Jasmine Curry, will be available for streaming on Amazon Tuesday, May 28. It follows best friends Mia and Anne, who support, challenge, and judge [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Agencies Offer to Restart Talks With WGA to End Packaging Fee Standoff

    Hollywood’s largest talent agencies have offered to restart negotiations with the WGA to end the standoff over the guild’s effort to impose new rules on talent agents. In a letter to WGA West president David Goodman sent Wednesday, UTA co-president Jay Sures extended an olive branch and suggested resuming talks next week. UTA later sent [...]

  • Martin Short

    Martin Short Joins Whitney Cummings, Lee Daniels Amazon Comedy Pilot 'Good People'

    The cast of the Amazon comedy pilot “Good People” continues to grow, with Martin Short becoming the latest big name star to sign on to the project. Short joins previously announced cast members Lisa Kudrow, Greg Kinnear, and Whitney Cummings. Cummings is also writing and executive producing the pilot with Lee Daniels. “Good People” centers [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content