The global leader in video streaming, Netflix, has been promoting content from the Arab world as seen in the October premiere of the Arabic reality show "Dubai Bling" and the September premiere of its Kuwaiti series, a comedy-drama called "The Cage."
Nuha El-Tayeb, Netflix MENA's director of content acquisition, told Arab News that the company looks for stories that are genuine, approachable, and have the potential to become viral.
“Stories with universal themes that have broader appeal and can resonate with more of our members around the world always work well.”
Each country in the region has a different content strategy for the company. For instance, Netflix is searching for new voices that have distinctive stories to tell in Saudi Arabia which has a developing entertainment sector.
This could be seen in the "New Saudi Voices" collection, which was released in September and featured 11 specially selected short films showcasing the talent of up-and-coming Saudi filmmakers.
The following month, Netflix and Studio Production Training introduced "Below the Line KSA," an initiative that aims to create and grow a network below-the-line talent, who work behind the scenes as assistant directors, production designers and managers, art directors, prop masters, and set builders, by giving 15 young people access to practical and vocational training.
In contrast, Netflix is collaborating with some of the most renowned artists in Kuwait and Egypt, where there is a long and well-established tradition of storytelling.
The region's talent pool is being widened by the rising investment in the entertainment industries of regional nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, she added.
“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.”
She said that Netflix's regional strategy is largely aimed at the advancement of female talent through content, workshops, and financial support. Women historically have not been represented in front of and behind the camera, which means that women lack agency over their tales and are cast in roles that no longer accurately reflect their experiences, according to El-Tayeb.
This year, Netflix collaborated with Sard, an Egyptian hub for Arab scriptwriters, to launch "Because She Created." A course for women to learn creative writing, and fosters their capacity for narrative and self-expression.
In July, it debuted a collection of 21 films by Arab female filmmakers, also titled "Because She Created," and collaborated with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture to offer female producers and directors in the Arab world a one-time grant of $250,000. This was done through the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity.