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Netflix aims to “provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to win fans around the world”

DUBAI: Netflix, the global video streaming giant, says it is investing heavily in content from the Arab region. Recent proof of this is the release of the Arab reality show “Dubai Bling” in October, and its first Kuwaiti series, a comedy-drama titled “The Cage”, in September.

Earlier in the year, he released an Arabic remake of the 2016 Italian film “Perfect Strangers”, as well as original titles such as the TV shows “Al-Rawabi School for Girls” and “Jinn”.

“We are looking for stories that are authentic, relatable and capable of travel,” Nuha El-Tayeb, director of content acquisitions at Netflix MENA, told Arab News.

“Stories with universal themes that have broader appeal and can resonate with more of our members around the world always work well.”

Nuha El-Tayeb, Director of Content Acquisitions at Netflix MENA. (Provided)

She said the company’s content strategy in the region varies from country to country. In Saudi Arabia, for example, which El-Tayeb says has a “booming entertainment industry,” Netflix is ​​looking for “new voices who have unique stories to tell.”

This was reflected in the release of its “New Saudi Voices” collection in September, which included 11 specially selected short films celebrating the creativity of emerging Saudi filmmakers.

The following month, Netflix launched “Below the Line KSA”, in conjunction with Studio Production Training, an initiative that aims to establish and grow an infrastructure of so-called “below the line” talent – team members in behind the scenes as assistant directors, designers and stage managers, artistic directors, props men and set builders — providing 15 young people with professional and practical training.

“Conversely, in Kuwait and Egypt, where there is a long history of storytelling, we work with some of the region’s most respected talents to bring exceptional stories from the Arab world to our members in the world,” said El-Tayeb.

In March, for example, Netflix held a six-week program called “TV Writers’ Lab 6×6” in partnership with the National Creative Industries Group in Kuwait.

“Ultimately, we want to use our scale and influence to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to win fans around the world,” El-Tayeb said.

Growing investment in the entertainment sectors of regional economies, particularly Saudi Arabia, is helping to expand the talent pool in the region, she added.

“We want to be a meaningful part of the region’s creative communities and that means growing the talent pool and giving new voices a chance to be heard,” El-Tayeb said.

“Whether through training programs, financial support, industry partnerships or our contribution to regional film festivals, we strive to build a strong network of talent for the entertainment industry. Arabic and to create new opportunities for Arab writers, filmmakers and filmmakers -line talent.

Netflix’s focus in the region is, to a large extent, on developing female talent through content, workshops and financial support, she added.

“The historical lack of representation of women behind and in front of the camera means they have no autonomy over their stories and are therefore locked into roles that no longer represent their lives,” El-Tayeb said.

This year, Netflix partnered with Sard, an Egyptian platform dedicated to screenwriters from the Arab world, for “Because She Created”, a program designed to coach women in creative writing and help them develop their writing skills. storytelling and creative expression.

In July, it launched, also under the title “Because She Created”, a specially curated collection of 21 films by Arab filmmakers, and partnered with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture to provide a one-time grant $250,000 to female producers and directors in the Arab world through the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity.

“We want to create a level playing field for women filmmakers in the region and create space for more equitable storytelling at all levels,” El-Tayeb said.

Netflix lost over a million subscribers worldwide in the first half of this year. However, its efforts to recoup that loss appear to have paid off as the streaming service posted a gain of 2.4 million subscribers in the third quarter.

In the region, StarzPlay, Netflix and Shahid VIP were the video streaming market leaders last year, accounting for more than 60% of subscribers, according to market research firm Dataxis. Looking ahead, analysts predict that Shahid VIP will be the leader followed by Netflix, with each service expected to hold over 20% market share by 2026.

The entry into the regional market of other global streaming services, such as Disney+ and Discovery+, as well as OSN’s service in the region has further increased competition.

“We believe competition is healthy and ultimately leads to better content for people,” El-Tayeb said. “We are extremely proud of the content we make available and know that people will always find the Netflix experience unique.”

As competition intensifies, the company aims to offer a “wider range of entertainment choices” to subscribers through its nascent gaming platform, El-Tayeb said. It plans to have 50 games available by the end of the year, with another 55 in development.

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