Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’

Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’
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Earlier in the year, Netflix released an Arabic remake of the 2016 Italian film “Perfect Strangers,” along with original titles such as the TV shows “Al-Rawabi School for Girls” and “Finding Ola.”.”
Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’
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Dubai Bling. (Supplied)
Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’
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Finding Ola on Netflix. (Supplied)
Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’
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Behind the scenes photo of Khallat on Netflix. (Supplied)
Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’
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Masameer County season 2 is streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’
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Behind the scenes photo of The Matchmaker on Netflix. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 November 2022

Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’

Netflix aims ‘to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally’
  • Nuha El-Tayeb, director of content acquisitions at Netflix MENA talks to Arab News about the platform’s strategy for the Arab world
  • In Saudi Arabia, which she said has an ‘up-and-coming entertainment industry,’ Netflix is looking for ‘fresh voices that have unique stories to tell’

DUBAI: Netflix, the global video-streaming giant, says it is investing heavily in content from the Arab region. Recent evidence of this includes the release of Arabic reality show “Dubai Bling” in October, and its first Kuwaiti series, a comedy-drama titled “The Cage,” in September.

Earlier in the year, it released an Arabic remake of the 2016 Italian film “Perfect Strangers,” along with original titles such as the TV shows “Al-Rawabi School for Girls” and “Finding Ola.”

“We look for stories that are authentic, relatable and have the power to travel,” Nuha El-Tayeb, director of content acquisitions at Netflix MENA, told Arab News.

“Stories with universal themes that have broader appeal and can resonate with more of our members around the world always work well.”




Nuha El-Tayeb, director of Content Acquisitions at Netflix MENA. (Supplied)

She said that the company’s content strategy in the region varies from country to country. In Saudi Arabia, for example, which El-Tayeb said has an “up-and-coming entertainment industry,” Netflix is looking for “fresh voices that have unique stories to tell.”

This was reflected in the release of of its “New Saudi Voices” collection in September, which included 11 specially curated short films celebrating the creativity of emerging Saudi filmmakers.

The following month Netflix launched “Below the Line KSA,” in collaboration with Studio Production Training, an initiative that aims to establish and develop an infrastructure of so-called below-the-line talent — behind-the-scenes crew members such as assistant directors, production designers and managers, art directors, prop masters and set builders — by providing 15 young people with vocational and practical training.

“Conversely, in Kuwait and Egypt, where there is a long and established legacy of storytelling, we’re working with some of the most respected talent in the region to bring exceptional stories from the Arab world to our members globally,” said El-Tayeb.

In March, for example, Netflix organized a six-week program called “TV Writers’ Lab 6x6” in partnership with the National Creative Industries Group in Kuwait.

“Ultimately, we want to use our scale and influence to provide Arab talent and filmmakers with a platform to gain fans globally,” El-Tayeb said.

The growing investment in the entertainment sectors of regional economies, particularly Saudi Arabia, is helping to expand the pool of talent in the region, she added.

“We want to be a meaningful part of the creative communities in the region and that means developing the talent pipeline and giving new voices a chance to be heard,” said El-Tayeb.

“Whether it’s through training programs, financial support, industry partnerships, or our contribution at regional film festivals, we are striving to build a solid network of talent for the Arab entertainment industry, and creating new opportunities for Arab writers, filmmakers and below-the-line talent.”

Netflix’s focus in the region is, to a large extent, geared toward the development of female talent through content, workshops and financial support, she added.

“Women’s historic lack of representation behind and in front of the camera means that they have no autonomy over their stories and are therefore boxed into roles that no longer represent their lives,” said El-Tayeb.

This year, Netflix partnered with Sard, a dedicated hub in Egypt for scriptwriters from the Arab world, for “Because She Created,” a program designed to coach women in creative writing and help them to develop their storytelling and creative-expression skills.

In July it launched, also under the title “Because She Created,” a specially curated collection of 21 films by Arab female filmmakers, and partnered with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture to provide a one-time grant of $250,000 for female producers and directors in the Arab world through the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity.

“We want to create a level playing field for women filmmakers in the region and create a space for more equitable storytelling across the board,” El-Tayeb said.

Netflix lost more than 1 million subscribers, globally, in the first half of this year. However, its efforts to recoup this loss seem have paid off as the streaming service reported a gain of 2.4 million subscribers in the third quarter.

In the region, StarzPlay, Netflix and Shahid VIP were the video-streaming market leaders last year, accounting for more than 60 percent of subscribers, according to market research firm Dataxis. Looking ahead, analysts predict Shahid VIP will be the marker leader followed by Netflix, with each service forecast to hold more than 20 percent of market share by 2026.

The entrance to the regional market of other global streaming services, such as Disney+ and Discovery+, as well as OSN’s service in the region have further heightened competition.

“We believe competition is healthy and ultimately drives better content for people,” El-Tayeb said. “We take immense pride in the content we make available and know that people will always find the Netflix experience to be unique.”

As competition heats up, the company aims to offer a “broader spectrum of entertainment choices” to subscribers through its fledgling gaming platform, said El-Tayeb. It expects to have 50 games available by the end of the year, with 55 more in development.


Disney to cut 7,000 jobs in Iger’s company ‘transformation’

Disney to cut 7,000 jobs in Iger’s company ‘transformation’
Updated 24 sec ago

Disney to cut 7,000 jobs in Iger’s company ‘transformation’

Disney to cut 7,000 jobs in Iger’s company ‘transformation’
  • Iger said Disney is embarking on a “significant transformation” that management believes will lead to improved profitability at the company’s streaming business

LOS ANGELES: The Walt Disney Co. will cut about 7,000 jobs as part of an ambitious companywide cost-savings plan and “strategic reorganization” announced Wednesday by CEO Bob Iger.
The job cuts amount to about 3 percent of the entertainment giant’s global workforce and were unveiled after Disney reported quarterly results that topped Wall Street’s forecasts.
Iger returned as CEO in November following a challenging two-year tenure by his handpicked successor, Bob Chapek. The company said the job reductions are part of a targeted $5.5 billion cost savings across the company. As of Oct. 1, Disney employed 220,000 people, of which about 166,000 worked in the US and 54,000 internationally.
In a statement, Iger said Disney is embarking on a “significant transformation” that management believes will lead to improved profitability at the company’s streaming business.
The company, which owns Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar, will focus more on its core brands and franchises, Iger said.
The executive also announced changes to how executives will operate Disney’s various divisions. Specifically, creative executives will now be responsible for determining what movies, TV series or other content to produce, as well as the marketing and distribution.
“Our new structure is aimed at returning greater authority to our creative leaders and making them accountable for how their content performs financially,” Iger said during a call with Wall Street analysts.
In its latest results, solid growth at Disney’s theme parks helped offset tepid performance in its video streaming and movie business.
Disney said Wednesday that it earned $1.28 billion, or 70 cents per share, in the three months through Dec. 31. That compares with net income of $1.1 billion, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items, Disney earned 99 cents per share. Analysts, on average, were expecting adjusted earnings of 78 cents per share, according to FactSet.
Revenue grew 8 percent to $23.51 billion from $21.82 billion a year earlier. Analysts were expecting revenue of $23.44 billion.
Disney said sales at its parks, experiences and products segment grew 21 percent to $8.74 billion, from $7.23 billion a year earlier. While revenue for the segment that includes Disney’s movie business edged up 1 percent to $14.78 billion from $14.59 billion a year earlier.
The company’s direct-to-consumer business, which includes its streaming services, posted a $1.1 billion operating loss amid higher programming and production costs at Disney+ and Hulu.
Disney+ ended the quarter with 161.8 million subscribers, down 1 percent from since Oct. 1. Hulu and ESPN+ each posted a 2 percent increase in paid subscribers during the quarter.
The company rolled out new price tiers for its US Disney+ service in December that raised the monthly price for ad-free viewing from $7.99 to $10.99 and created a new basic Disney+ service with ads that costs $7.99 a month.
Management said Wednesday that Disney+ plus will achieve profitability by the end of its next fiscal year in September 2024.
The latest results marked the first quarterly snapshot since Iger’s return as CEO.
The move to revamp the company and slash costs comes as Disney is under pressure to turn its business around.
Activist investor Nelson Peltz, CEO of Trian Fund Management, is vying for a seat on Disney’s board of directors, arguing that the company’s recent operating performance has been disappointing and the result of self-inflected problems stemming from failed succession planning efforts, a flawed direct-to-consumer strategy and “over-the-top” compensation practices, among other concerns.
Disney has urged shareholders to vote against Peltz and last month named board member Mark Parker as its chairman. Parker, who also serves as executive chairman at Nike Inc., has been tapped to head Disney’s newly created succession planning committee, which will advise the board on CEO succession planning.
Iger also announced Wednesday that he intends to ask the board to approve the reinstatement of a “modest” dividend by the end of this year. The company suspended its dividend in the spring of 2020, in the early days of the pandemic.
Shares in Disney, which is based in Burbank, California, rose almost 6 percent in after-hours trading.


Twitter scrambles to fix meltdown as many unable to tweet

Twitter scrambles to fix meltdown as many unable to tweet
Updated 38 min 33 sec ago

Twitter scrambles to fix meltdown as many unable to tweet

Twitter scrambles to fix meltdown as many unable to tweet
  • Users first noticed the problem when they tried to send tweets and received a message saying they had reached their “tweet limit”

Many Twitter users found themselves unable to tweet, follow accounts or access their direct messages on Wednesday as the Elon Musk-owned platform experienced a slew of widespread technical problems.
“Twitter may not be working as expected for some of you. Sorry for the trouble. We’re aware and working to get this fixed,” the company tweeted from its “support” account.
Further details were unavailable Wednesday afternoon and an email seeking comment from the company’s press account went unanswered. Twitter has dissolved its media relations team.
Users first noticed the problem when they tried to send tweets and received a message saying they had reached their “tweet limit.”
While Twitter has for years limited the number of tweets an account can send, it is 2,400 per day — or 100 an hour — far more than most regular, human-run accounts send on the platform.
Accounts also had trouble when they tried to follow another Twitter user, getting a message “You are unable to follow more people at this time” with a link to the company’s policy on follow limits.
Twitter’s long-standing limit on how many accounts a single user can follow in a single day is 400 — again, more than a regular Twitter user would generally reach on any given day.
It is not clear what caused Wednesday’s meltdown, but Twitter engineers and experts have been warning that the platform is at an increased risk of fraying since Musk fired most of the people who worked on keeping it running.
Already in November, engineers who left Twitter described for The Associated Press why they expect considerable unpleasantness for Twitter’s more than 230 million users now that well over two-thirds of Twitter’s pre-Musk core services engineers are apparently gone.
While they don’t anticipate near-term collapse, the engineers said Twitter could get very rough at the edges — especially if Musk makes major changes without much off-platform testing.
One Twitter engineer, who had worked in core services, told the AP in November that engineering team clusters were down from about 15 people pre-Musk — not including team leaders, who were all laid off — to three or four before even more resignations.
Then more institutional knowledge that can’t be replaced overnight walked out the door.
“Everything could break,” the programmer said.


Backlash for Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkiye earthquake

Backlash for Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkiye earthquake
Updated 09 February 2023

Backlash for Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkiye earthquake

Backlash for Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkiye earthquake
  • The magazine shared on the day of the quake a drawing gloating over the death of thousands
  • Commentators described the cartoon as "racist" and "vile"

LONDON: A cartoon scoffing at the deadly earthquake that has killed more than 11,000 people in Turkiye and Syria has received a severe backlash online for its insensitivity.

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon captioned “drawing of the day” and showing collapsed buildings and piles of rubble with “earthquake in Turkiye” written on top and “no need to send tanks” at the bottom, sparking outrage on social media as well as criticism from journalists.

Many deemed the cartoon “racist” and “vile,” condemning it for mocking the pain of thousands of innocent victims.

“Just vile, racist, and immensely insensitive,” tweeted Islamophobia scholar Khaled Beydoun.

“It is really disgusting to make fun of the suffering of others and far from the ethics of journalism, assuming it sticks to it, and I doubt it,” wrote Abdulla Al-Amadi in a tweet.

Lebanese journalist Giselle Khoury described the cartoon as “shameful,” demanding the magazine explain how this constituted “freedom of expression.”

Rana Abi Jomaa, also a Lebanese journalist, wrote that “there are no limits to Charlie Hebdo’s racism,” wondering “who would defend this abhorrent satirical French magazine after today?”

“Charlie Hebdo is faithful to its famous hate speech, bigotry, mediocre unethical journalism and colonialist scorn,” wrote Tunisian journalist Mourad Teyeb. “Nothing to do with press freedom!”

Khalil Rammal, on social media, denounced the magazine’s “racist” cartoon, namely for “gloating over” the tragedy of thousands.

Challenging the outrageous cartoon, Ouissal Harize shared a video of a rescued toddler who lost his family in the catastrophe, and wrote: “This is the tragedy you are mocking.” 

Another user, Shireen Mazari, wrote: “Hatred and Islamophobia at its peak when a natural disaster draws this kind of reaction from Charlie Hebdo! Sickening to the core.”

Commentators recounted the Jan. 7, 2015, attack on Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in Paris, reminding the magazine of its demand for global support under the slogan “Je suis Charlie.”

“Mocking a natural disaster with the death of thousands and the complete destruction of infrastructure in an already fragile state with ‘didn't even need to send tanks’ is everything I need to know about ‘Je suis Charlie.’ Inhumane,” wrote Twitter user Yasmeen.

Political analyst Oznur Sirene reminded the magazine of how many Turks showed solidarity following the 2015 attack, only to be rewarded with mockery.

“Today you dare mock the suffering of an entire people,” she wrote. “One must really have some nerve to do this while there are still babies waiting to be rescued.”

Others condemned the magazine for “having a history of mocking victims of catastrophe,” with several resharing the cartoon that made fun of Italy’s earthquake in 2016.

Charlie Hebdo received a backlash for a cartoon it shared in September 2016 mocking the victims of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Italy at the time. Shortly after, the magazine shared another cartoon demonizing critics.

In January 2016 the magazine published a cartoon making fun of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian child whose body was found on a Greek beach in 2015. 

People in Turkiye and Syria woke up on Monday to a deadly magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which killed more than 11,000 people, according to CNN, and destroyed thousands of buildings.

Syria’s devastated infrastructure and freezing weather conditions are obstructing rescue operations, which have been ongoing since the disaster struck.


Twitter restricted in quake-hit Turkiye

Twitter restricted in quake-hit Turkiye
Updated 08 February 2023

Twitter restricted in quake-hit Turkiye

Twitter restricted in quake-hit Turkiye
  • Platform has been widely used to seek help and establish personal contact
  • Turkish authorities have limited access to social media during previous national emergencies

LONDON: Twitter is facing restrictions in Turkiye as the country struggles to deal with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, sources reported.

Independent global internet monitor NetBlocks confirmed that the social media platform has been restricted on multiple network providers, including TTNet and Turkcell, on Wednesday.

“Real-time network data show Twitter has been restricted in Turkiye,” Netblocks said in a tweet.

“The filtering is applied on major internet providers and comes as the public come to rely on the service in the aftermath of a series of deadly earthquakes.”

Twitter is widely adopted in the country and its restriction disrupts critical communication for rescue efforts.

NetBlocks Director Alp Toker said that this is the first time the company detected social media restrictions during a natural disaster.

“Twitter has been in use extensively in the aftermath of the earthquakes, both to seek assistance and rescue equipment and by those trying to get back in touch with loved ones,” Toker said.

Turkish authorities have not given any formal explanations, but NetBlocks said that Turkiye often acts to prevent alleged disinformation during national emergencies.

In November, following a terrorist attack in central Istanbul that killed six people and injured more than 80, authorities imposed a 10-hour social media ban.

Some users also reported that TikTok might have been affected by the restrictions.

In a statement, the video-sharing app said it was aware of the technical difficulties and is “investigating the matter and hope access is restored as soon as possible as platforms like TikTok remain a critical way to stay in touch during crises.”

NetBlocks and some Twitter users have reported that users in Turkiye can still access the platforms through VPNs.


Dubai Lynx launches Young Lynx Academy in partnership with Publicis Groupe

Dubai Lynx launches Young Lynx Academy in partnership with Publicis Groupe
Updated 08 February 2023

Dubai Lynx launches Young Lynx Academy in partnership with Publicis Groupe

Dubai Lynx launches Young Lynx Academy in partnership with Publicis Groupe
  • Hosted over 3 days, program will feature keynote talks, workshops, competition
  • Dubai Lynx festival director Thea Skelton: We are seeing an increasing number of agencies from KSA enter and win at Dubai Lynx

DUBAI: The Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity has launched the Young Lynx Academy in partnership with multinational advertising company Publicis Groupe.

Aimed at mentoring young professionals in the Middle East and North Africa region, the academy will run from March 12 to 14.

Thea Skelton, festival director of Dubai Lynx, told Arab News: “As we know, the region is using creativity as a driving force for growth.

“We are seeing an increasing number of agencies from KSA enter and win at Dubai Lynx and it’s very exciting for us to watch young talent from the Kingdom grow.”

The academy is designed to support young talent within the creative communications sector by offering them a free mentorship opportunity.

Hosted over three days, the program will include keynote talks, workshops, and a 24-hour hack competition involving participants working on a charity brief.

Skelton said: “Creativity is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, and the training and development of young people in this sector is very much a part of this.

“We’re excited to see how young creatives from Saudi Arabia will perform this year and pave the way for many more people from the region to excel,” she added.

The academy will be open to professionals aged 30 or younger who have worked for a minimum of one year in the creative, media, digital, or social sectors in the MENA region. Successful applicants will also receive tickets to attend the festival and Lynx party on March 14.

The deadline for entries is Feb. 27. More details are available on the Young Lynx Academy website at https://www.dubailynx.com/talent-and-training/young-lynx-academy