LONDON: Netflix is producing its first Arabic-language show, focusing part of its massive $7-8 billion global production budget on its Middle Eastern audience.
The American entertainment service will produce “Jinn,” a six-episode drama series, with the award-winning Lebanese director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, known for the film “Very Big Shot,” released in 2015.
“Jinn” will be a supernatural teenage drama about young Arab characters whose lives are disrupted when a Jinn appears to them in the ancient city of Petra.
The series is due to be filmed later this year in Jordan with yet-to-be-announced Middle Eastern talent. It is expected to be available to Netflix members around the world in 2019.
Netflix is slated to release about 700 titles globally this year, a company spokesperson told Arab News, including an Arabic-language stand-up show.
“We are currently very excited about ‘Jinn’ and ‘Adel Karam: Live from Beirut,’ an Arabic comedy special that will be launching on March 1, and we are also aiming to grow our catalogue with more licensed content,” the spokesperson said.
According to website Ranker, the top-rated Arabic-language show on Netflix is “Omar,” which was released in 2013 and went on to scoop a prize at the Cannes Film Festival 2013.
Netflix is gradually taking the Middle East more seriously, following sluggish subscriber growth in the region. The content streaming service had only managed to attract 137,000 paying subscribers by the end of 2016 in the MENA region, according to analysis shared with Arab News by research firm IHS Markit.
Researchers at the firm estimate the number of regional subscribers to Netflix will rise to 1.29 million by the end of 2021.
Globally, subscriber numbers are looking more rosy. Last year, Netflix raced through the 100 million subscriber mark, and it now has about 120 million subscribers. The Middle East holds much growth potential for Netflix, with original Arabic-language content part of that process.
“I love that Netflix is investing a lot in the region; it’s a real turning point. We have such a rich storytelling culture, and we’ll finally be able to enjoy Arabic content with Netflix quality,” said the writer of “Jinn,” Jordanian Oscar-nominated screenwriter Bassel Ghandour.
According to Erik Barmack, the Netflix VP of international original series, more details about “Jinn” will be available later this year.
“We’re delighted to be working with such a variety of breakout talent to launch our first Arabic original series in the Middle East,” Barmack said.