Game on: Netflix steps up its multiplatform plans

Game on: Netflix steps up its multiplatform plans
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Updated 14 September 2022

Game on: Netflix steps up its multiplatform plans

Game on: Netflix steps up its multiplatform plans
  • Streamer aims to cash in on popular IPs such as ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Squid Game’ by enhancing the experience for subscribers through tie-in games
  • After a low-profile launch last year, Netflix Games this week announced a partnership with Ubisoft, the developer of the smash-hit Assassin’s Creed franchise

DUBAI: Faster than some observers predicted, the wider streaming world has gained ground on industry pioneer Netflix in the fight for entertainment supremacy — but the world’s biggest streamer still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Take Netflix Games, for instance. Soft-launched only 10 months ago with little marketing power behind it, the service has already added 28 mobile games to its library and is steadily gaining ground among the company’s massive subscription base, largely through word of mouth.

For Netflix, however, gaming is not a simply a value-added service; Netflix Games could signal the future of the company, one that will maximize the value of its in-house intellectual properties.

“We think the great opportunity that Netflix has is connecting our universes together,” Leanne Loombe, head of external video games at the company, told Arab News.

That means that in the near future, when new seasons of globally popular Netflix properties such as “Stranger Things,” “Squid Game,” “Bridgerton” and “Money Heist” are released, they might potentially be accompanied with games that tie-in with them directly. Such a service would not only cross-promote but could also enrich the entire viewing experience.

“Some of the great IPs on the streaming side could become experiences on the gaming side that could allow people to watch the TV show or the movie and then play the game and really immerse themselves in the universe and the characters. We’re excited to bring more Netflix IP games to the service,” Loombe said.

Netflix has long had a clear global strategy. It is available in 190 countries and territories, with teams around the world that aim not only to tailor existing content to each unique market but also to create content specifically designed for each one. In some cases, such as the Jordanian, Arabic-language original drama AlRawabi School for Girls, this local content ends up finding a global audience.

By embracing gaming, Netflix properties could gain cultural ground to an even greater degree, especially in countries such as Saudi Arabia where gaming is not only popular on a grassroots level but has state-level support for the industry’s continued growth.

“Saudi Arabia will become one of the global hubs for gaming and esports,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, during his opening remarks at the Next World Forum in Riyadh this month.

The move by Netflix toward multi-platform maximization of the value of its IPs is not a plan for the distant future. It has already announced two major games that tie into past and future Netflix projects.

A game based on the popular drama series “The Queen’s Gambit,” titled The Queen’s Gambit Chess, was announced in June. A release date was not given but is likely imminent.

In addition, an original and exclusive game in the blockbuster Assassin’s Creed franchise was announced last weekend by software company, and new Netflix partner, Ubisoft. It will reportedly tie-in with a previously announced live-action “Assassin’s Creed” TV series. Both could appear on Netflix in 2023.

“Of the 28 games we’ve released so far, and with 50 planned by the end of the year, not many of them are Netflix IP,” said Loombe. “Our future will be focused more on this as it’s an area that we have a superpower in already.”

While the majority of the games are aimed at the mobile gaming experience, that does not mean they are intended to be superficial “pick-up-and-play” experiences. The streamer already has a range of game types, from casual to so-called “hardcore gaming” experiences, and existing multiplayer options mean that the prospect of esports on Netflix’s gaming platform is not a far-fetched possibility.

“We already have multiplayer games on the service and giving people the chance to play together is something that we’re passionate about,” says Loombe.

Netflix is devoting to its future gaming plans the same depth, focus and size of investment that their TV IPs are already known for. This is especially true in the case of the upcoming Ubisoft games, which in addition to Assassin’s Creed, include spin-offs popular games Valiant Hearts and Mighty Quest.

“Those games all had a scale that existed before they came to the platform and we want to make sure that with our upcoming originals, we’re doing those games justice in terms of the complexity, scope and depth of experience that we’re creating,” said Loombe.

“While it’s still early, as those games are in development, we are definitely staying true to those franchises and want to provide great games to the existing communities and their most hardcore fans.”

While many other streaming services emerged from existing film and television studios or services, Netflix has always been a technology-first company that does not view itself as conveniently fitting into any specific box. As Loombe puts it, it is an entertainment company and the definition of entertainment encompasses a broader category than some might think.

“I think it’s a natural progression for Netflix to move into gaming so that we have a broad spectrum of entertainment for our members to experience,” she said.

“You need a few hours to sit and watch a movie or a TV show at the weekends or in the evening, but with games you can play for five minutes in your break or you can play on your commute, especially on mobile. That makes Netflix properties that much more accessible and can fit within your lifestyle.”

And this, ultimately, is why Netflix believes its future is multiplatform — so that no amount of free time, however brief, cannot be filled with some form of entertainment that can be enjoyed for the price of a Netflix subscription.

“Games allow us to ensure that our members have something to engage in, wherever they are, whatever time of day it is,” said Loombe. “Our goal is to bring joy to our members through a connected ecosystem; to make sure entertainment is always in their hands.”


MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series
Updated 27 sec ago

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series
  • ‘Play it Forward’ launched by YouTube
  • 5 episodes, stories from Saudi, Egypt, Iraq, UAE

DUBAI: YouTube has launched its latest video and podcast series “Play it Forward with YouTube” or “Hekayat YouTube” in Arabic, focusing on stories from the Middle East North Africa region.

The five-episode series, which is available on the YouTube Arabia channel, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify & Deezer, aims to shed light on the journey and aspirations of content creators from the MENA region.

The majority of watch time of YouTube content that is produced in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt comes from outside these countries.

Content produced in the UAE has the highest number of viewers from outside the country at 95 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia at 60 percent and Egypt at 55 percent.

“I’m always inspired by the creativity and dedication of YouTube creators from MENA,” said Tarek Amin, director of partnerships at YouTube MENA.

“Their journey to content creation and wanting to share more of what inspires them or what needs to be spoken about are stories we hope more people can hear and be inspired from through ‘Play it Forward with YouTube,’” he added.

In each episode, Amin interviews different creators including Passant Nur El-Din and Mostafa Attia from Egypt, Zainab Al-Eqabi from Iraq, Rehab Saad from Saudi Arabia and Anas Bukhash from the UAE.

The first episode was released on Dec. 5 with others coming out every week.


Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel
Updated 06 December 2022

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel
  • The decision by the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council was based on number of recent violations by TV Rain
  • The license was revoked on the grounds of a threat to national security and public order

TALLINN, Estonia: Latvia has revoked the license of an independent Russian TV channel exiled in the Baltic country for, among other things, voicing support for the Russian military and including Crimea in its map of Russia, media authorities said on Tuesday.
The decision by the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council was based on number of recent violations by TV Rain and the license was revoked on the grounds of a threat to national security and public order.
The region’s main news agency, Baltic News Service, said the decision will take effect on Thursday when not only TV Rain’s broadcasts but also its programs on YouTube will be blocked in Latvia.aTV Rain was earlier fined by the Latvian media watchdog for failing to ensure proper translation of its broadcasts into Latvian, the Baltic country’s only official language.
On Friday, Latvia’s state security service started a probe into statements made by TV Rain on suspicion that it was supporting Russia and its military currently waging a war in Ukraine.
Latvia’s decision was triggered by a TV Rain program in which the anchor invited Russian soldiers and their families watching it to share their stories with the channel and promised to offer help. The host offered an apology, saying he wasn’t promising material assistance to Russian troops on the front line in Ukraine, but the channel quickly fired him and apologized.
The incident came on top of earlier tensions with the Latvian authorities, who issued a reprimand over the channel depicting the Moscow-annexed Crimea as part of Russia on maps and referring to the Russian military as “our army.”
TV Rain owner Natalya Sindeyeva said in an interview that she hasn’t decided on the next steps yet. “I wasn’t prepared for that, I was sure they wouldn’t do that,” Sindeyeva told Meduza, an independent Russian news outlet also based in Latvia.
Since its creation in 2010, TV Rain has been the most visible independent TV station in Russia, criticizing the Kremlin’s policies, offering airtime to government critics and extensively covering opposition protests.
It has faced continuous official intimidation and pressure from the Russian authorities in the past. In August 2021, it was branded a “foreign agent,” a label that implied closer government scrutiny and carried a strong pejorative connotation that could discourage potential viewers.
TV Rain suspended operations in Russia earlier this year after authorities blocked its broadcasts allegedly due to the channel’s critical coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The channel restarted broadcasting in the summer from Latvia’s capital, Riga, where several other independent Russian media outlets are based.
The Latvian media watchdog’s ruling can be appealed. Its chairman, Ivars Abolins, said that all media outlets working in Latvia should follow and respect Latvia’s legislation but TV Rain — known in Russia as “Dozhd” — has refused to do it.
“I believe that this decision demonstrates that Latvia is open also for the Russian media because all Russian media who respect the law are welcome and may work in Latvia,” said Abolins as quoted by the Baltic News Service. “Those who are not ready to follow the rules, cross the red lines, may not work here. The rules are fair.”


Facebook owner Meta may remove news from platform if US Congress passes media bill

Facebook owner Meta may remove news from platform if US Congress passes media bill
Updated 06 December 2022

Facebook owner Meta may remove news from platform if US Congress passes media bill

Facebook owner Meta may remove news from platform if US Congress passes media bill

WASHINGTON: Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. on Monday threatened to remove news from its platform if the US Congress passes a proposal aimed at making it easier for news organizations to negotiate collectively with companies like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook.
Sources briefed on the matter said lawmakers are considering adding the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to a must-pass annual defense bill as way to help the struggling local news industry.
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone in a tweet said the company would be forced to consider removing news if the law was passed “rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions.”
He added the proposal fails to recognize that publishers and broadcasters put content on the platform because “it benefits their bottom line — not the other way around.”
The News Media Alliance, a trade group representing newspaper publishers, is urging Congress to add the bill to the defense bill, arguing that “local papers cannot afford to endure several more years of Big Tech’s use and abuse, and time to take action is dwindling. If Congress does not act soon, we risk allowing social media to become America’s de facto local newspaper.”
More than two dozen groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Knowledge and the Computer & Communications Industry Association on Monday urged Congress not to approve the local news bill saying it would “create an ill-advised antitrust exemption for publishers and broadcasters” and argued the bill does not require “funds gained through negotiation or arbitration will even be paid to journalists.”
A similar Australian law, which took effect in March 2021 after talks with the big tech firms led to a brief shutdown of Facebook news feeds in the country, has largely worked, a government report said.
Since the News Media Bargaining Code took effect, various tech firms including Meta and Alphabet have signed more than 30 deals with media outlets, compensating them for content that generated clicks and advertising dollars, the report added.


Google Doodle celebrates late Kuwaiti actor and comedian 

Google Doodle celebrates late Kuwaiti actor and comedian 
Updated 06 December 2022

Google Doodle celebrates late Kuwaiti actor and comedian 

Google Doodle celebrates late Kuwaiti actor and comedian 

DUBAI: Google Doodle marked on Tuesday the birthday of the late Kuwaiti actor and comedian Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda, which falls on Dec. 6. 

Abdul Reda is one of the most famous and prominent Gulf and Arab artists, and one of the Gulf region’s pioneers of acting, with a career that exceeded 50 years.

He participated in the first theatrical play in classical Arabic under the title “Saqr Quraish” in 1961. 

(Internet)

Abdul Reda presented many prominent works in theater and television, where he became famous on television with series like The Slippery Path and Destinies.  

He was nicknamed by Dubai Ruler and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid as the “Gulf’s laughter and joy” for his famous theatrical roles in well-known Khaleej plays like Bye Bye London and Bani Samet. 

On his passing, Sheikh Mohammed took to Twitter to pay tribute to the late Kuwaiti actor, saying: “We bid farewell to the Gulf's laughter and joy. Every Khaleeji citizen had a beautiful time with you.” 

After suffering several diseases in his lifetime, Abdul Reda passed away in London and was buried in Sulaibikhiyat Al Jaafariah on Aug. 16, 2017.


Arab-Chinese Media Cooperation Forum launches joint broadcasting initiative

A joint Saudi-Chinese TV program will spotlight the stories of Chinese and Saudi Arabian individuals. (Supplied)
A joint Saudi-Chinese TV program will spotlight the stories of Chinese and Saudi Arabian individuals. (Supplied)
Updated 06 December 2022

Arab-Chinese Media Cooperation Forum launches joint broadcasting initiative

A joint Saudi-Chinese TV program will spotlight the stories of Chinese and Saudi Arabian individuals. (Supplied)
  • Majid Al-Qasabi: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Arab-Chinese Media Cooperation Forum, which is being held today in Riyadh...between the Saudi Ministry of Media and the China Media Group”

RIYADH: Ahead of the Chinese President’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Ministry of Media and the China Media Group announced the launch of a joint partnership initiative to promote relations between Arab countries and China through media in a ceremony in Riyadh on Monday.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Arab-Chinese Media Cooperation Forum, which is being held today in Riyadh...between the Saudi Ministry of Media and the China Media Group,” Acting Minister of Media Majid Al-Qasabi said.

Al-Qasabi addressed the audience in a speech via video extending his support for the cooperation.

“We look forward to the cooperation today to launch new media initiatives that contribute to deepening the ties between the Arab and Chinese cultures and between their peoples,” he said.

The initiative, he explained, will promote the presence of Chinese media on Arab channels, translating Chinese television shows into Arabic.

Through the initiative, Saudi and Chinese television will also work together to create programs highlighting the stories of individuals from both Saudi Arabia and China who achieved success in each other’s countries.

The initiative will also create opportunities for travel between the two countries, opening a space for greater understanding and strengthening the relationship between China and Saudi Arabia through media and cultural exchange.

In line with the aim of improving communication, the ceremony was held in both Arabic and Chinese in the presence of Ambassador of China to Saudi Arabia Chen Weiqing, Director-General of the Arab States Broadcasting Union Abdulraheem Sulaiman, and Chinese politician Li Shulei, head of publicity at the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi, president of the Arab States Broadcasting Union and CEO of the Saudi Broadcasting Authority, presented the initiative in a speech during the ceremony.

“Saudi-Chinese relations are old and well-established and strong, and they are witnessing prosperity and expansion,” he said, citing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to China, the over 20,000 Arab students studying in China and the several schools in Saudi Arabia that teach the Chinese language and culture.

“We hope that this relationship will witness greater growth with the connection of interests and relations between the two peoples,” he added.

Toward the end of the ceremony, top media representatives from Palestine, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and Iraq extended their support for the initiative.

Al-Harthi stressed the importance of media in any country’s diplomatic relations.

“To achieve a solid relationship between the two societies, the media must play this role,” Al-Harthi said.

Through the initiative, translated Chinese works will be broadcast in Palestine, Algeria, Jordan, Sudan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.