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Streaming services provide a new platform to tell the story of Arab societies

Streaming services such as Netflix have been transforming the way we consume media for over a decade now. This trend is well-apparent in the West, where streaming services continue to gobble up the markets. However, one only needs to look at the Middle East to see these effects becoming turbocharged — and streaming companies are increasingly looking towards this region as the next big growth opportunity for their businesses. As usual, the first company to succeed will gain a large competitive advantage.

Netflix, an efficient transmission channel

So it should come as no surprise that local production houses, actors, and filmmakers are welcoming these new opportunities with open arms. By siding with Western companies, these creators are unrestrained in their vision, allowing them to push the boundaries of what is acceptable on-screen while telling untold stories that have been typically brushed over in the past. 

Take the show “Rawabi”, for example; it portrays a typical story of teenagers in high school and the drama that comes with coming of age. After its August premiere, the show shot to first place in Jordan. It was praised for tackling delicate issues in Jordanian society, as well as showing the lives of girls, which is often overlooked. 

Al Rawabi show


Nevertheless, streaming services continue to gain ground in the region. Netflix alone has about 5 million subscribers and growing.

Shahid, a Saudi-owned service, has seen a 20-fold increase since its launch last year, rising to 2 million subscribers. Netflix has also stated its goal of doubling its subscriber base over the next five years. The key to doing so will be through original content creation, which has already reaped benefits in other countries such as the United States and France

 

The Lebanese TV show Dollar

 

Arab series that stand out from other TV shows

 

This is a golden opportunity for regional filmmakers to not only make a name for themselves, but to create without constraints. new concepts continue to appear on screens across the region. Normally shunned, science fiction has seen rebounding success through the series “Paranormal”, which takes place in Egypt.

Variety magazine even dubbed it one of the best international shows of 2020. Netflix’s first original Egyptian release, “Paranormal” has been able to reach a wider audience thanks to their wider reach, moving beyond the typical target demographic of middle-aged domestic viewers. It has already been green-lit for a second season. 

Streaming services will thus continue to gain influence. This trend shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. As their spread grows, the untold stories that have been cast under the rug in the past will soon see the light of day.