Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

Nurflix team during a script reading rehearsal for the upcoming drama Light & Love which is being filmed in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo courtesy: Nurflix Facebook page)
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Updated 22 September 2020

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

  • Service attracts more than 10,000 subscribers since July

KUALA LUMPUR: Netflix could soon have competition from a homegrown entertainment platform in Malaysia which, its makers say, will cater to Muslims’ “halal TV” needs based on Islamic values.

Dubbed “Nurflix,” the platform is Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant streaming service and has attracted more than 10,000 subscribers since July.

Nurflix is the creation of Syah Rizal Mohamed, who wants to produce and release original content for the platform before its official launch in January.

“We spent $9.7 million for the startup, but the company will produce 1,000 (items of) original content in multiple categories like mainstream, educational, spiritual and motivational and kids, with about 12,000 episodes in the first five years of operating,” the 43-year-old CEO told Arab News.

He also plans for Nurflix to acquire content from local and international producers, as long as they align with the service’s production guidelines, with a focus on markets in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore before setting up internationally.

“We see ourselves covering the Southeast Asian region in the next five years with our readiness to establish hubs in the Middle East and Europe to gain traction in the international market.”

He said the decision to tap into the streaming service market was driven by the rapid growth of video-on-demand media and consumers choosing this, as well as over-the-top subscription services, as their main form of entertainment. 

Consumers agreed that there was a market for a halal content platform.

“The Islamic streaming service just enriches the Islamic entertainment ecosystem because there is a niche for it,” 25-year-old public relations executive Puteri N. Balqis told Arab News.

Media consultant Amir Hadi Azmi said a Shariah-compliant streaming service was an interesting niche, particularly for more conservative users, but that the concept was not unique to Islam or Muslims.

“In America, for example, there is a service called Pure Flix which caters to more conservative Christian viewers,” he told Arab News.

Amir Muhammad, managing director of Kuman Pictures, said that as a producer, the more outlets that were made available to content producers and filmmakers, the better. Kuman Pictures, which is known for releasing horror and thriller content, could create appropriate content if need be.

“I have not seen their actual guidelines, but if they want halal horror, we will give them halal horror,” he told Arab News.

The Nurflix CEO said there would be a Content Advisory Council and that it would be headed and supervised by Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid and the Honorable Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis.

“Productions, including third-party content providers, will be monitored by the council to ensure the end product abides by the set guidelines. Nurflix is unique in the market because it is not just offering Islamic-guided content. The production will be monitored by the council to ensure all aspects of work are conducted in a Shariah-compliant manner.”

Although there is no formal collaboration with the Islamic Affairs Department, he said that Nurflix’s ideas and concepts had already been shared with Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

When contacted by Arab News, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development Paimuzi Yahya said his department was still working on “collaborating with the streaming service” and declined to comment further.

Global Amazon marketing agency launches in Middle East to help regional brands

Updated 19 October 2020

Global Amazon marketing agency launches in Middle East to help regional brands

  • Podean CEO Mark Power: ‘You can’t just look at Amazon as a pure sales channel, it is much more than that; it’s a vast array of properties, experiences, and content’
  • Mark Power: ‘The Middle East is a huge market of 230 million people so Amazon’s taking this very seriously because it’s a very strategic market with real volume and real growth’

RIYADH: Global Amazon agency and marketplace consultancy Podean has been officially launched in the Middle East, with a regional headquarters in Dubai.

In 2017, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) e-commerce market reached $8.3 billion with an average annual growth rate of 25 percent. In 2020, e-commerce expenditure exceeded expectations by more than $52 billion since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown began in March – up 77 percent year-on-year. And at the forefront of this surge was Amazon.

In the UAE alone, 46 percent of shoppers use Amazon with Noon being a distant second at 16.9 percent.

Mark Power, founder and CEO of Podean, spoke to Arab News about the Amazon ecosystem and how his agency can help brands succeed on the platform.

Podean launched in New York 9 years ago and has since expanded to the UK, Australia, and the Middle East. Power comes from an agency background having worked at The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG).

“Holding companies (such as IPG) are very sophisticated and they have huge scale and they help brands in a very sophisticated way when it comes to media and creative but they really don’t understand the nitty gritty of the world of e-commerce and retail and they have a lot of trouble working out how to make money from it,” he said.

On the other hand, he added, Amazon-focused agencies were usually started by ex-Amazon employees who have a siloed approach.

“We believe Amazon should be ultimately integrated with everything else you’re doing as a brand. You can’t just look at Amazon as a pure sales channel, it is much more than that; it’s a vast array of properties, experiences, and content,” Power said.

A common challenge is that most brands and businesses think of Amazon as a sales or retail channel simply to place their product on.

“It doesn’t get the love it really needs because Amazon has now given people access to tools to make their products stand out, and if you’re not doing that you can quickly lose out on precious sales and valuable traffic or not convert that traffic because you haven’t invested and you haven’t sort of adjusted to the new the new Amazon reality,” he added.

As of 2018, Facebook and Google commanded around 70 percent of digital advertising dollars while Amazon’s share was roughly 7 percent and it has surely increased – beyond regular forecasts – this year.

Amazon’s consumer growth has been supported by the launch of initiatives and products for businesses such as the Amazon Marketing Cloud and its demand-side platform (DSP), which allows brands to place display and video ads across Amazon’s websites and apps.

This year has also marked a significant milestone for the e-commerce giant with product searches on Amazon surpassing those on Google in the US. All of this means that brands – even those not selling on the platform – can now also use Amazon for upper-funnel marketing activities, such as brand awareness, and not just for performance marketing. They can also access Amazon’s data to pinpoint the consumer journey and better target audiences.

Power pointed out that the agency’s services were not cannibalizing audiences away from a brand’s direct-to-consumer channel, but rather finding these potential consumers who have visited a brand’s direct-to-consumer channel but prefer the Amazon experience and shaping their consumer journey in a way that is favorable to the brand.

While consumers are flocking to Amazon for everything from toilet paper to electronics, sellers and businesses are expressing concerns as evidenced by the antitrust hearing against Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

Sellers know that the best place to sell online is Amazon, but it is a tricky situation to be in when Amazon starts selling its own versions of the most popular products.

“It’s hard to make a judgment call. But, at the same time, some of the things that we’ve seen as partners within the Amazon ecosystem doesn’t look good at all,” Power said.

He chalked it down to the silos that exist within Amazon. “Amazon is a siloed business made up of a vast array of different entrepreneurial businesses within different businesses within different businesses and that has caused it to become an incredible success.

“But I think it also can be something where because there are silos and lack of communication, some of those teams go off and do things and they do it fast and so successfully, that it may come at a cost – not just to other teams within Amazon, but also the partners that they’ve built.”

He added that Amazon was now being much more careful as to how it worked with partners, “not just be obsessed with end-consumers which it has been touting for many years.” And this is reflected in the initiatives it has launched to support partners and brands such as its APIs (app programming interfaces) and Brand Registry programs.

Its advertising tools for the Middle East are in the process of being launched starting with the UAE and Saudi Arabia and then Egypt and Turkey, all of which will be served by Podean’s Middle East headquarters in Dubai.

Power said: “It (the Middle East) is a huge market of 230 million people so Amazon’s taking this very seriously because it’s a very strategic market with real volume and real growth.”