“Now we have to coexist; we don’t have an possibility, neither them nor us.” This was what the chief business and advertising officer of VOD on the MBC Group Natasha Matos-Hemingway instructed trade friends at a panel on the challenges and the way forward for streaming within the Arab area, hosted by Crimson Sea 360°, the trade talks arm of the Red Sea Film Festival. “If I used to be them, I might concentrate on what they’re good at, which is Western content material that travels properly. For us, our regionals carry out extremely properly as a result of we are able to do justice to our native tales, whereas the worldwide streamers don’t,” she continued, talking at size on the dichotomy between native and international streamers.
It is a sentiment echoed by Rohit D’Silva, chief enterprise officer for Center East and South Africa at VIU. “Streaming is a rising class, it doesn’t matter the market you might be in, so competitors is inevitable. If you happen to stick with your lane and concentrate on what you’re good at, and you’ve got a critical quantity of capital to again you up, you’ll be aggressive. Within the Center East, there’s an enormous alternative. And it’ll change into extra aggressive, not much less.”
Whereas the younger market is of nice attraction to streamers eager to enterprise into the Center East, many trade heads have talked about the difficulties in organising subscription tiers as one of many largest challenges within the area. “The buyer within the Center East is used to getting extraordinarily high-quality content material; they’ve the power to pay, however as a result of they’ve been getting high-quality content material free of charge for years, they don’t need to,” continued D’Silva, concluding by saying, “It’s onerous to develop a streaming ecosystem when there’s no subscription.”
“Subscription is a matter for us,” stated Karim Safieddine, founder and govt producer at Lebanon’s Cinemoz. “Once we began, half the shoppers in Egypt didn’t have a bank card. We had been simply ready for the market to evolve.”
Cinemoz is an ad-based streaming service with free subscriptions, with its income coming from premium promoting for on-demand providers. It’s at the moment the fastest-growing premium VOD platform within the Arab area.
“We don’t take a look at viewers as customers, we take a look at them as an viewers that’s alive. The challenges are behind us. The primary challenges now are for international streamers in [the Middle East and North Africa],” stated Safieddine, highlighting the significance of understanding the nuances between totally different nations and cultures within the area.
“The challenges would be the burden of the worldwide gamers, and the native gamers must compete. The streamers destroyed the studio system, however nothing has modified. All the pieces that’s within the worth chain is precisely the identical. Us having native data and a proximity to our viewers will give us an opportunity,” added Safieddine, with Giacomo Durzi, the top of growth at Italy’s Picomedia including: “To me, content material must be a key phrase, particularly for commissioners, writers and producers. We’re speaking about enterprise methods, however we’re losing our time. We have to perceive what the viewers needs from us. We must be a bit braver, all of us, a bit extra enthusiastic and passionate and search for new challenges in storytelling.”
Authentic content material and contemporary storytelling are an ideal drive for Matos-Hemingway, whose MBC group produces round 20 large originals a yr. “We do have drama as a base however, as we’ve grown, we began totally different audiences and producing content material to speak to them and appeal to them.”
D’Silva added: “Drama and comedy do very properly. We’re seeing a development in area of interest content material corresponding to Korean content material in Arabic. With motion pictures, the extra produced the higher. Innovation will come from locations you least count on. It’s a transferring goalpost, so it’s about native, well-produced, distinctive tales. You don’t have to compete greenback for greenback with Hollywood.”
The opening of cinemas in Saudi Arabia has not spooked streamers. Quite the opposite, says Matos-Hemingway. “The cinemas being revived within the Kingdom permit us to eat content material in a distinct expertise after which relive it on streaming.” The modifications within the area are thrilling to Safieddine, too. “[Red Sea Souk] is our first market so it’s been nice to place faces on the names. Saudi might change into the studio entity of the Center East, the place you’ve the services, the price range and the commissioners — that locomotive that may pull the remainder of the prepare.”