Netflix open to more Arab content

Published: 2 September 2019 - 7:20 a.m.
By: Shane McGinley
US-based OTT streaming giant Netflix has no plans to open in Dubai in the short-term, a senior executive told Arabian Business, but it is open to pitches for shows from regional filmmakers, as part of plans to expand its original content from the Arab world.

“I imagine that eventually we will have an office in Dubai,” Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings said in an interview in May 2018 with CEO Middle East, Digital Studio’ sister magazine.

“Right now it works well to have everyone together in Amsterdam where they are all learning from each other. It may be a few years but I imagine over time that will make sense."

In an interview with Arabian Business in Jordan this summer, Kelly Luegenbiehl, vice president of international originals at Netflix, said there were no plans to open an office in the UAE as part of the company’s current strategy of opening regional offices outside the United States.

“Well right now we've recently opened an office in Madrid, we're opening one in Paris and we're opening one in Berlin. We don't have any plans to open one here [in Dubai] at the moment. I think we're excited to see how these local offices take off and what that adds to our value as a company both locally and globally,” Luegenbiehl said.

Arab content
The head of Netflix’s original shows was in the Middle East for the launch of its first Arabic language series Jinn, which had its premiere in June in Jordan.

Luegenbiehl said while the company may not have a permanent base in the Gulf she was still open to expanding the streaming giant’s stock of original content from the Arab world and speaking to regional filmmakers about ideas for potential shows.

“Yes, we are always looking for great stories … I've been doing a little bit of a tour going around having meetings with filmmakers that are fans and saying ‘What stories do you want to tell on Netflix? Given the opportunity, what would you like to show the world?' And we're hearing some really great, fun ideas, so I think, you know, the ones that we've announced so far, obviously Jinn, Al Rawabi School for Girls and Paranormal. And then, from there, I think we're looking for an additional second slate of what are those next iterations of Arabic language series,” she said.

Jinn was a paranormal young adult series set amidst the ruins of the ancient Jordanian city of Petra, Al Rawabi School for Girls is a drama about a Jordanian girl who looks to get revenge on her bullies, while Paranormal is based on the bestselling books by Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik and follows the adventures of Dr. Refaat Ismail, a hematologist investigating a series of supernatural events.

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