MBC plots Netflix-style original content

The free-to-air satellite network MBC aims to strengthen its digital footprint across the Middle East. Above, MBC’s headquarters in Dubai. (AP)
Updated 09 January 2019
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MBC plots Netflix-style original content

  • Region’s biggest broadcaster throws down gauntlet to streaming giant Netflix with plans for new-look digital offering
  • Saudi backed-group has hired former Hulu executive Johannes Larcher, who joins as managing director of digital and video on demand

LONDON: MBC Group, the region’s biggest broadcaster, is going head to head with Netflix across the Arab world as it prepares to roll out original shows on demand.
The Saudi backed-group has hired former Hulu executive Johannes Larcher, who joins as managing director of digital and video on demand, with a remit to enhance the group’s entire digital offering.
His focus will be to develop the broadcaster’s “Shahid” and “Shahid Plus” video-on-demand platforms.
It is part of a five-year growth plan for the free-to-air satellite network which aims to strengthen its digital footprint across the Middle East.
But while producing original dramas on a video-on-demand basis draws obvious comparisons with Netflix, Larcher said there were also key differences.
“Netflix is active in the market, but they tend to produce content with global appeal. Shahid will focus on creating originals that are culturally relevant, thus leveraging MBC’s brand equity and long-establish privileged relationships with Arab audiences,” he said in an interview with Arab News.
“It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but we believe we have strong advantages in this area.”

 

Larcher revealed that there would be a strong focus on Arabic drama soaps in its originally produced content.
With so much free-to-air content available to Arab audiences, paid-for viewing can be more challenging than in other markets. However, the arrival of video-on-demand providers, such as Netflix and Starz Play, is rapidly changing the market.
“While the MENA region has a strong free-to-air TV landscape, led by MBC, and piracy remains an issue, we have found that
with the right offer, large numbers of viewers are willing to subscribe against premium content and special offerings,” said Larcher.
Regional and global broadcasters are being forced to respond to rapidly changing media consumption trends.
Digital news channels are increasingly competing with traditional broadcasters for the attention of audiences who are as likely to get their news from their phones as their televisions.
The Middle East is expected to have 390 million Internet users and six to seven connected devices per household to reach 545 million devices by 2020, primarily from the GCC, according to Deloitte.
“We reach 140 million viewers every day across the Middle East, both through our satellite television channels and online through our video-on-demand service. And as audience habits evolve we are evolving with them,” said MBC Group CEO Sam Barnett.
Netflix, the global number one video-on-demand provider, last February revealed plans for its first Arabic original series, called “Jinn.”

FASTFACTS

140 million - MBC Group’s estimated regional audience.


French far-right weekly barred from Twitter over ‘hate speech’

Updated 19 February 2019
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French far-right weekly barred from Twitter over ‘hate speech’

  • Rivarol’s Twitter account “called for racial hatred and sympathized with crimes against humanity,” a government spokesman said
  • France, home to the biggest Jewish community in Europe, has seen a sharp rise in anti-Jewish offenses reported to police

PARIS: A French far-right magazine had its Twitter account suspended Monday, French officials said, after multiple complaints of hate speech including anti-Semitic abuse.
Rivarol’s Twitter account “called for racial hatred and sympathized with crimes against humanity,” a spokesman for the government’s racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination body (DILCRAH) said, adding it had repeatedly reported the account to the social media platform.
France, home to the biggest Jewish community in Europe, has seen a sharp rise in anti-Jewish offenses reported to police — up 74 percent last year.
A spate of anti-Semitic vandalism and graffiti in and around Paris in recent weeks has caused fresh alarm and sparked widespread condemnation.
Frederic Potier from DILCRAH welcomed the move by Twitter, saying it was thanks to a push “against online hate speech.”
In a tweet on February 13 that has now been removed, the weekly magazine wrote: “When I was a child I didn’t understand why Jews were detested by all people, all nations throughout history. Today I don’t even ask the question anymore. Actually I do, I wonder why they aren’t (detested) more.”
Sacha Ghozlan, head of the French Union of Jewish Students, told AFP: “It’s an important victory and a brake on this anti-Semitic rag that has been spreading hatred of Jews for years.”
“However, there is still a lot of work to be done on Twitter,” he said, adding that online abuse of Jews has long gone unpunished.
He said he suspected that Rivarol’s editor Jerome Bourbon — whose own Twitter account was already suspended — was personally behind the magazine’s tweets.
Several rallies against anti-Semitism are planned across France on Tuesday.