LONDON: MBC Studios has teamed up with Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 and Image Nation to produce an Arabic-language soap opera called “Inheritance.”
The soap was created for MBC Studios by Tony Jordan who was lead writer on the UK soap EastEnders, set around the fictional east London neighborhood of Albert Square.
The deal will see a dedicated studio built for the show in Abu Dhabi which will also serve as the main location for filming.
Media free zone twofour54 will invest directly in the production, and MBC is set to benefit from the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s 30 percent rebate on production spend in the emirate, the pair said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We are thrilled to have agreed to a long-term production deal — the first of its kind in the Arab world,” said MBC Studios Managing Director Peter Smith.
The show’s backers describe it as the Arab world’s first soap opera because they say that at present, while there are many Arabic drama series, none are scheduled to run indefinitely — a defining characteristic of a soap opera.
“Inheritance” will shoot for more than 250 days of the year, and it is expected to generate over 200 jobs in the first year.
Maryam Eid AlMheiri, vice chair of twofour54, described the deal as a “landmark moment” in Arab entertainment and cultural history.
Efforts to create more homegrown Arabic-language drama comes as global video on demand players from Netflix to Amazon eye the Middle East as a potentially lucrative and under-served market.
MBC Digital Managing Director Johannes Larcher last month told Arab News that it was boosting investment in its “Shahid” Arabic-language video-on-demand platform in the second half of the year.
“We have viewers from North America to Europe who are Arab speakers and who want to use Shahid to stay in touch with their countries of origin and their culture,” Larcher told Arab News in an interview.
The development of ‘Inheritance’ is the latest milestone in twofour54’s longstanding partnership with MBC. In 2015, MBC and twofour54 signed a three-year agreement in 2015 to grow the number of quality Arabic drama productions in Abu Dhabi and the region. That partnership produced a broad range of Arabic content, including “Haret El Sheikh,” “Hob Bila Hudood,” season one of “Boxing Girls,” and the first two seasons of “Al-Asouf.”
The first episode of “Inheritance” is expected to air in the first quarter of 2020.