There’s no doubt that the media industry is going through tumultuous change, but good content continues to be sought-after by both media houses and viewers alike.
Just prior to going to press last month, I had the opportunity to speak with three people in the content business in the UAE who have in recent months all been granted six-figure dollar sums to produce original content for different markets. These are not heavyweight production houses or consultancies with a lot of marketing muscle or capital. They are medium-sized outfits run by people who have spent years in the industry and now have the connections, the know-how and the ability not just to commission great productions but to go further with licensing and distribution deals across different markets.
After hearing for years that this market doesn’t fund good content, this news is of course testimony to the good times that lie ahead for the content market. There’s no doubt that the media industry is going through tumultuous change, but good content continues to be sought-after by both media houses and viewers alike. So if companies must innovate, create new business models and collaborate to get that great content on board, then so be it.
A case in point is StarzPlay, which in recent months has been aggressively announcing content partnerships and licensing deals. I was especially impressed with the strategy the streaming service adopted to tout a first-class international production as its first Original in the MENA region. It certainly doesn’t have the billions that Netflix invests in productions, but it did have the good sense to collaborate on a Hollywood-calibre production with several big names behind it in terms of skilled writers, producers and cinematographers. More importantly, the scene was set in an Arab country. In short, the production had all the ingredients of a success story – and I bet it was.
I have a soft spot for any small- or medium-sized homegrown business that dares to take on global powers with plain strategy and business acumen. There are some other exciting content deals in the market, but I have been sworn to secrecy for now. The mantra for success is primarily good content – but what can really sweeten that whole value chain is great connections and the ability to sign licensing and distribution deals across different markets. You’ll see a lot of that combined action at the Red Sea Film Festival in Saudi Arabia this month.