Netflix is set to release its first Arabic production in June, as streaming services compete for the Arabic-speaking market.
Rabat – The streaming service Netflix, which has been showing four Arabic-language dramas during Ramadan, is set to release its own Arabic production in June.
Viewing rates usually peak during Ramadan, as families enjoy soap operas after breaking their fast at sunset with the iftar meal, or during the Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal. After Ramadan, however, Netflix will debut its first production in Arabic, Jinn, on June 13. The company has plans to add even more Arabic-language shows to its listings this summer in its effort to “ramp up focus on the Middle East.”
Shows Coming soon
Filmed in Jordan, the show Jinn is a supernatural drama about teenagers who encounter two spirits during a field trip to the historic city of Petra.
“Jinn is Netflix’s first Middle Eastern original series which will bring Middle Eastern folklore to the modern world,” Artanc Savas, Netflix’s communications manager for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, said. “We are very excited to see it come to life.”
Netflix will be releasing a second Middle Eastern original series, “Al Rawabi School for Girls” though the date is yet to be announced. “Written and directed by Jordanian screenwriter and director Tima Shomali, the show tells the story of a bullied high school girl,” said Savas.
The streaming giant also announced a third Arabic original production, called “Paranormal” based on novels bearing the same title by Egyptian writer Ahmed Khaled Tawfiq.
“It is great to not only invest in local Middle Eastern content but also to create a global audience for local language shows,” Savas said.
Competition on the Market
Other platforms are competing for Arabic-speaking viewers. Starz Play and Wavo are newer streaming platforms than Netflix. The Saudi company MBC Group, which currently has two streaming services, Shahid and Shahid Plus, has announced that it will be putting out original productions.
While some streaming platforms are currently showing content in Arabic, like OSN television network’s two services, OSN Play and Wavo, Starz Play is the top competitor for Netflix in the MENA region with its one million subscribers.
With Ramadan being the focal point, these companies are competing to gain millions of Arabic-speaking viewers year-round. “Competing with traditional television in Ramadan is not our strategy,” Maaz Sheikh, Co-founder and CEO of Starz Play Arabia, said. “What we are trying to do is bring more and more relevant Arabic content during Ramadan to our consumers.”
Each company has been showing 30 episodes for the 30 days of Ramadan, in other words, only one episode is released each night.
“Adding these shows to our roster of licensed content during Ramadan gives our audiences the flexibility to watch the shows they want, when they want,” Savas said, referring to the usual fixed times of traditional TV shows.
An estimated 25% to 30% of people in the Middle East watch streaming videos online, according to Mukul Krishna, Head of Digital Media at US-based research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Netflix has declined to disclose the number of subscribers it has in the region.
Producing original Arabic content is the “next step,” said Sheikh, adding that the “UAE and Saudi Arabia are our two biggest markets, followed by Morocco.”