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Tue 9 Jul 2019 08:13 AM

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Starz Play to launch first original Arabic series in the UAE

Arabic show will feature a pan regional storyline, according to streaming platform CEO Maaz Sheikh

Starz Play to launch first original Arabic series in the UAE
The streaming platform’s first production of its kind will feature a pan regional storyline, with more details to be announced by Q4 this year.

MENA’s leading subscription video on demand (SVOD) service Starz Play is set to launch its first Arabic original series based in the UAE, CEO Maaz Sheikh told Arabian Business.

The streaming platform’s first production of its kind will feature a pan regional storyline, with more details to be announced by 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,” Sheikh said.

Backlash

He added that the series will be sensitive to regional cultural values, given the backlash faced by competitor Netflix over its controversial Jordan series Jinn that featured intimate scenes, alcohol consumption and vulgar language, which viewers argued were against Jordanian traditions and principles.

“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,” Sheikh said.

Largest player

Starz Play boasts the largest market share in the region at 29 percent in terms of subscriptions as well as revenue at 32 percent, according to the IHS Markit Pay TV & Online Video Report, MENA, 2019.

It has 1.2 million users and credits user growth to its offering of flexible payment options in MENA, where bank card penetration remains low, including payment through local mobile plans and free trials without commitments or restrictions.