▸ Maaz Sheikh, CEO of MENA’ s regional OTT player Starz Play, talks about its first Arabic original in comparison to Netflix’s Jinn.
▸ Says, “While globalisation has exposed regional consumers to Western culture and language, they remain largely loyal to their traditions”.
▸ “We are still trying to find out what the balance is between accepting global media and at the same time staying loyal to our roots”.
After the launch of Jinn last month, the world clearly acknowledged the fact that the Arab world is really serious about its culture, and the Western content and the language do not reflect cultural values for them. The intimate scenes, alcohol and vulgar language portrayed in Jinn dismayed the Middle East audience and this news got spread like wildfire since it had everything to do with the OTT behemoth Netflix. This led to Jordanian government’s investigation into the series and the national army’s cybercrime unit to pull Jinn out of Jordanian Netflix.
On the similar lines, Maaz Sheikh, the CEO of MENA’s leading OTT player Starz Play stated…
“When we look at our original content, we’re going to be sensitive to that. As much as people say, ‘We want to produce the Vikings of the Arab world or the next Game of Thrones of the Arab world,’ I’m not sure that is the right strategy as far as audience preferences are concerned”
– Maaz Sheikh – CEO, Starz Play
On Monday, Sheikh told Arabian Business that his platform will be launching its first Arabic Original which will be sensitive to regional cultural values.
“There was a lot of negativity and backlash around Jinn, so we’ve been watching that and trying to figure out what works in the region: what it is that people are sensitive about, why consumers accept certain language and scenes in Western language content, but do not accept it for their own Arabic content.”
“When we look at our original content, we’re going to be sensitive to that. As much as people say, ‘We want to produce the Vikings of the Arab world or the next Game of Thrones of the Arab world,’ I’m not sure that is the right strategy as far as audience preferences are concerned”.
About Starz Play first Arabic Original
Maaz Sheikh added a few more details around Starz Play’s first Arabic production, said: it will be based in UAE but will feature a pan-regional storyline and will be announced in Q4 this year.
“Our major plans for the rest of the year is to do an Arabic original and we’re looking at partnering with a few studios. The show will be produced in the UAE, but we’re trying to make it a pan regional show. It will be a UAE-based show and Dubai is our home and we want to do our first original from this part of the world, but we’re trying to make the storyline pan regional so it has a pan-regional view to it”.
He added that he’s glad that Starz Play didn’t produce its Arabic original in a rush since what happened to Jinn is a great learning for Starz Play.
“There’s a lot of talk on social media about people cancelling Netflix and going to Starz Play. I don’t think it’s that big and that it will last very long, but it just goes to show you how sensitive people are to these boundaries and when these boundaries are crossed, they get very upset”.
Starz Play: A little Data & Numbers
Starz play currently has 1.2 million users which include both the premium users and users on trial. According to IHS Market Pay TV & Online Video Report, MENA, 2019, Starz Play stands tall to the market shared in the region at 29 percent in terms of subscriptions as well as revenue accounting for 32 percent.
Source: Arabian Business
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