SRMG expands into publishing industry in MENA with the launch of Raff Publishing

Raff Publishing, which has a major presence at the Riyadh International Book Fair (1–10 October, 2021), aims to become MENA’s most forward-looking publishing house in a global industry currently valued at US$92.68bn. (Supplied)
Raff Publishing, which has a major presence at the Riyadh International Book Fair (1–10 October, 2021), aims to become MENA’s most forward-looking publishing house in a global industry currently valued at US$92.68bn. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 October 2021

SRMG expands into publishing industry in MENA with the launch of Raff Publishing

Raff Publishing, which has a major presence at the Riyadh International Book Fair (1–10 October, 2021), aims to become MENA’s most forward-looking publishing house in a global industry currently valued at US$92.68bn. (Supplied)
  • SRMG announces Raff Publishing at the Riyadh International Book Fair, in line with the Group’s new growth strategy and digital transformation
  • Raff Publishing will adopt new models in regional publishing, harnessing digital formats and innovative technologies, and amplifying regional perspectives by publishing the Arab World’s greatest authors

RIYADH: The Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) today announced the launch of a book publishing company designed to meet the market needs of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The new venture, Raff Publishing, will embrace digital technologies, explore new formats and adopt innovative business models which support SRMG’s reputation as a leading source of audience-centric content and information in the region.
Raff Publishing, which has a major presence at the Riyadh International Book Fair (1–10 October, 2021), aims to become MENA’s most forward-looking publishing house in a global industry currently valued at US$92.68bn, and forecast to reach US$104.21bn in 2025. The new publishing house will utilize pioneering business models and embrace new digital formats and publishing technologies, including print-on-demand, e-books and audiobooks. While the global publishing market is predicted to grow at a three per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years, e-books are expected to reach 11.7 per cent CAGR, with audiobooks achieving even stronger growth at 24.4 per cent CAGR, offering significant commercial opportunities for the Group.




Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of SRMG

“It’s time for the MENA publishing industry to evolve to meet the content demands of a technologically advanced population in Saudi Arabia and across the region,” said Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of SRMG. “With the launch of Manga Al Arabiya, we witnessed a massive turnout of young Arab talent with creative ideas, ready manuscripts and unique perspectives, and realized that we only need to provide an outlet for this talent to flourish,” added Al-Rashid. “With Raff Publishing, we are committed to developing talent, broadening audience reach with a focus on popular genres to meet existing demand, and to creating new markets through diverse formats, on-demand publishing and intelligent use of data and modelling to inform our business strategies.”
The Group believes it will deliver significant returns by tapping into new audiences, building avenues for consumption, and meeting the demand for Arabic content—including for international best-selling titles across fiction and non-fiction genres.
In line with SRMG’s commitment to enrich Arabic content and foster a culture of reading, Raff Publishing will publish MENA authors with compelling stories, and unique insights enabling it to acquire a roster of the Arab World’s greatest writers and literary classics.
Haifa Al-Jedea, Managing Director of SRMG Think, said: “With the launch of Raff Publishing, we will actively seek out new authors from across the Arabic-speaking world. We aim to publish books that will reach the full range of regional audiences who are hungry to hear stories they can relate to and, most importantly, feel represented by. We know there is an unmet appetite for quality regional content, and we will seek to discover, develop and publish new authors—poets and novelists, children’s authors, essayists, thought leaders and analysts—increasing the opportunities for MENA voices to be heard.”




Haifa Al-Jedea, Managing Director of SRMG Think

To enhance the regional audience’s access to global-best sellers and enrich Arabic content in the region, Raff Publishing has established extensive relationships and arrangements with international publishing houses and authors specializing in genres that are in high-demand but not widely available in the region. These include, Penguin Random House, the largest trade book publisher in the world; John Wiley & Sons, respected publisher of scholarly and scientific works, as well as the bestselling For Dummies books; Abrams, publisher of critically acclaimed and bestselling works; and The MIT Press one of the most distinguished university presses in the world. Raff Publishing is also engaging with global best-selling authors in order to publish their titles in Arabic, including the famous Max Einstein series by renowned author James Patterson,
The first titles from Raff Publishing are expected to be available online and through regional bookstores early in 2022.
With an expanding network of outlets, SRMG’s new growth strategy covers five business verticals: SRMG Media: Digital Platforms, Podcasts and Multimedia; SRMG International: International Investments and Partnerships; SRMG Think, providing unique viewpoints on local, regional and global topics by enhancing existing capabilities and venturing into two new businesses, including Raff Publishing, that complete, complement and enhance the Group’s current offering; SRMG X: Events, Conferences and Exhibitions; and SRMG Labs: Innovation, Incubation, and Training.
Driven by a newly appointed leadership team, and listed on the Tawadul stock exchange in Riyadh, SRMG is focused on delivering original, exclusive and premium content to consumers through new digital and social platforms, as well as strengthening its cable and satellite reach. The recently announced growth strategy leverages the Group’s data and technology strengths to develop new products and services, enhance monetization capabilities and diversify revenue streams.
Raff Publishing is at Riyadh International Book Fair, stand I-01.The Fair runs from 1 – 10 October 2021 at Riyadh Front.


Disney+ to launch across Saudi Arabia and 41 other countries in MidEast, Europe and Africa

Disney+ to launch across Saudi Arabia and 41 other countries in MidEast, Europe and Africa
Updated 26 January 2022

Disney+ to launch across Saudi Arabia and 41 other countries in MidEast, Europe and Africa

Disney+ to launch across Saudi Arabia and 41 other countries in MidEast, Europe and Africa
  • New countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

RIYADH: Disney+, the streaming service from The Walt Disney Company, confirmed that this summer it will launch in 42 countries and 11 new territories, including 16 markets across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). New countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

With exclusive original content and thousands of episodes and movies from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and general entertainment from Star, Disney+ is the streaming home for some of the world’s most beloved stories.


Google Doodle celebrates ‘Egyptian Cinderella’ Soad Hosny

Google Doodle celebrates ‘Egyptian Cinderella’ Soad Hosny
Updated 26 January 2022

Google Doodle celebrates ‘Egyptian Cinderella’ Soad Hosny

Google Doodle celebrates ‘Egyptian Cinderella’ Soad Hosny
  • One of the most dominant artists in the Middle East and the Arab world during her time

DUBAI: Google’s latest doodle celebrates what would have been the 79th birthday of the late Egyptian actress, singer and dancer Soad Hosny, better known as the ‘Egyptian Cinderella’, and one of the most dominant artists in the Middle East and the Arab world during her time.
Soad was born to a large, artistic family in Cairo – her father Mohammad was a calligrapher and some of her half-siblings were musicians, painters and composers  – with their household known as the “artists’ home” because leading artists from across the Arab world regularly visited.
Her career in show business began at just three-years-old when she sang for a popular children’s TV program, Papa Sharo, and had her first starring role at 17 in the 1959 with ‘Hassan and Naima’ – an Arabic adaptation of Romeo and Juliet – a breakout role that marked the start of a prolific on-screen career covering a wide genre including comedies, musicals, dramas and romance films.
Soad was touted as an icon of women’s empowerment, with many of her works intertwined with social and political moments in modern Middle Eastern history, from her leading role as a student and political activist who was tortured in ‘Karnak’ to other films which she transformed musical numbers into scathing satires which gave voice to the oppressed.
Her final screen appearance was in ‘Al Ra’i We El Nissa’ before retiring from acting in 1991. Soad died on June 21, 2001 at the age of 58.


Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list
Updated 26 January 2022

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

Aramco tops Arab companies on Brand Finance Global 500 list

LONDON: Saudi Aramco has maintained its position as the Middle East’s most valuable brand, with the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 report valuing the Kingdom’s oil giant at $43.6 billion.

Following a difficult period for the oil and gas sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aramco placed 31st in the list and is the only Arab company in the top 100 of the world’s 500 most valuable brands in 2022.

It recently announced plans to increase its production capacity from 12 million barrels per day to 13 million bpd by 2027.

“Despite there only being seven brands from the Middle East in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, their strong performances prove once again that the region punches well above its weight on the global stage,” Andrew Campbell, managing director of Brand Finance Middle East, told Arab News. “The future looks bright, with all of the brands from the region – including Aramco, ADNOC, Etisalat, and stc – seeing positive brand value growth this year.”

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company was the second most valuable brand in the region and held on to the top spot in the UAE, asserting the dominance of the oil sector.

ADNOC managed to score a 19 percent brand value growth to $12.8 billion, the fastest among the top 10 oil and gas brands globally, which sees it hold on to its position as the second most valuable brand in the region.

Its CEO Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber was crowned the highest-ranked CEO outside of the US and China. He is also the top-scoring leader in the oil and gas sector.

Other Middle Eastern brands in the top 500 include Saudi telecom provider stc (184th and valued at $10.5 billion), the UAE’s Etisalat (192nd and valued at $10.1 billion), Qatar National Bank (305th and valued at $7.05 billion), and Dubai’s Emirates airline (461st and valued at $4.9 billion).

Expo 2020 Dubai offered Etisalat a chance to demonstrate itself as a strategic enabler of the UAE's digital transformation, meaning it was crowned with the Middle East and Africa’s strongest brand for the second consecutive year.

“Etisalat’s brand focuses on togetherness and plays its part by providing a first-class telecoms infrastructure across its footprint. Exceptional rollout of 5G technology has also meant that the Etisalat Group’s portfolio of brands is the most valuable amongst telecoms organisations in the Middle East,” said David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance.

Saudi Arabia’s stc continued to see good growth this year, with its brand value increasing by 16 percent to $10.6 billion.

Globally, Apple continues to hold the world’s most valuable brand title for the second year in a row, overtaking Amazon and Google. TikTok, meanwhile, was crowned the fastest-growing brand in the world with a growth of 215 percent.

Media brands accounted for the top three fastest-growing brands in the ranking, with Snapchat and South Korea’s Kakao following closely behind TikTok.


OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’
Updated 25 January 2022

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’

OSN commissions first original feature ‘Yellow Bus’
  • Film to premiere on the platform this year after theatrical release

DUBAI: Streaming service OSN, which has been investing heavily in original content, has announced its latest original, “Yellow Bus,” which marks its foray into feature films.

“Yellow Bus” tells the story of a schoolgirl who dies from heat exhaustion after falling asleep on a school bus and is left behind.

The movie follows her mother Ananda, played by Tannishtha Chatterjee, as she searches for the truth about her daughter’s death.

“Yellow Bus” explores universal themes of motherhood, grief and dealing with loss against the backdrop of Gulf culture.

“We were drawn to the story as it works on many levels. It takes you on a heartbreaking roller-coaster of the mother’s desperation, while also covering controversial themes and concepts that are rarely addressed in this region,” said Darine ElKhatib, senior vice president of Arabic services and original production at OSN.

The film is written and directed by Wendy Bednarz, who has previously directed short films such as “On Crystal” and “Leaving Gussie,” and is produced by award-winning Jordanian screenwriter and producer Nadia Eliewat.

In addition to Chatterjee, the cast includes Amit Sial as the father, Gagan, and Kinda Alloush as the school owner, Mira.

“I can’t imagine a mother going through the loss of her child; it was a very emotional role for me to immerse myself in the character. The production of the film and the atmosphere on set were a truthful reflection of real life with its diversity of languages and accents,” said Chatterjee.

Alloush added: “When I read the script’s first 10 pages, I knew I wanted to be a part of this film. It’s a relatable story that can take place anywhere.”

The shooting of the film has been completed, and it will premiere on the platform later in the year after its theatrical release.


Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama
Updated 25 January 2022

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

Netflix meets outrage in Egypt with risque comedy-drama

CAIRO: Netflix's first Arabic film production was always set to be a big event, but within days of its release, public opinion in Egypt was so inflamed that critics called for a ban on the platform.
"Ashab wala Aaz" -- one of countless remakes of the Italian comedy-drama "Perfetti Sconosciutti" (Perfect Strangers) -- features renowned actors from Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.
The movie is about a group of friends meeting for dinner and deciding to make the night more interesting by agreeing to share every text message, email and phone call received with the rest of the group.
As events unfold, the game reveals shocking truths about members of the group as it touches on topics from adultery and premarital sex to homosexuality, all widely considered taboos in Egypt.
The film, which was released on January 20, immediately shot up to the most-watched list in Egypt.
But in the ensuing fracas, lawsuits have been filed against the culture ministry and the censor's office for allowing the film to be streamed, and MPs have called for a special session to discuss whether to ban Netflix altogether.
Online, many slammed celebrated Egyptian actress Mona Zaki, who took part in what they dubbed a "disgraceful" movie.
Amid the storm, the US streaming giant has refrained from commenting.

Lawmaker Mostafa Bakry argued Netflix should be banned altogether as he called for an urgent meeting in parliament to discuss it.
Premarital sex is also taboo in Egypt, where in extreme cases it may provoke "honour killings", especially in rural areas.
"This network targets Egyptian and Arab citizens ... we should ban Netflix," Bakri said in an interview with a private TV channel.
He said the film includes "more than 20 suggestive profanities which shocked Egyptian families".
Netflix rated the one-and-a-half hour long feature as not suitable for those under 16 years old, though it did not include any nudity or sex scenes.
Egyptian film critic Tarek Shennawy said he was "surprised" at the attack on actress Mona Zaki.
Zaki, who played the part of a wife trapped in an unsatisfying marriage, was particularly criticised for a scene in which she removes her underwear from under her dress.
On social media, many viewed the scene as a source of shame for her husband -- renowned actor Ahmed Helmi -- and their daughter.
"How did Ahmed Helmi allow his wife to play this part in the movie," one user asked on Twitter.
Another questioned how Zaki "was not afraid for her daughter to see her this bold".
But Shennawy argued that "the movie's content should not affect the personal or national honour of those who took part in it".
"We are confusing fiction with reality and this is very weird."