Netflix Inc’s imminent launch across the Middle East is the most discussed topic of conversation at the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival. Though Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, did not offer an exact date for the launch, he did say that the company hopes to complete it by the end of 2016, says a report from Hollywood Reporter, who also hosted a live video conversation with Sarandos.
What content will Netflix offer in Middle East?
Sarandos talked about the sort of content he would eventually be looking for from the region. While speaking from LA, he told the audience, “What’s missing on the global stage is a really great scripted series about contemporary life in the Middle East.”
Sarandos also said that the company is in touch with local content producers. “Most depictions outside of the Middle East are either historical or portray caricatures of what life in the Middle East would be,” the executive said.
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To overcome such limitations, Netflix plans to run a series of workshops and pitching sessions with filmmakers and producers in March next year. It also plans to work closely with the Dubai Film Festival.
On the initial launch of the service, localized content will not be available and the service would more resemble its U.S. counterpart. However, Sarandos said the plan is to quickly boost the platform with both Arabic-language acquisitions and Netflix Originals commissions. Some of the well-known Netflix shows on the U.S. service might not be a part of launch product. House of Cards is one such show, whose rights have already been sold to regional broadcaster OSN.
Internet regulation less heavy than broadcast
Sarandos also talked about censorship in the Middle East region, but gave no clear idea about how Netflix will approach the issue because rules often appear arbitrary in the region and sometimes vary wildly from country to country. Sarandos highlighted that internet regulation in the Arab world is far less heavy than the regulation of broadcast programs, where it is common to cut films and TV series to remove sexual themes.
It is very likely that the end goal of the company will be an Arabic-scripted Netflix series, but citing a reliable source, THR says a film project is perhaps a more likely initial pickup.