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Kings of content

by Digital Studio Middle East Staff on Oct 5, 2017

Carlos Tibi,  CEO, Icflix.
Carlos Tibi, CEO, Icflix.

With numerous OTT video streaming services entering the Middle East and North Africa market in the past three years or so, attention has been taken away from the first company, Icflix, to launch an SVOD service back in 2013.

Upon its launch, with a massive billboard advertising campaign in countries including the UAE, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, there were plenty of naysayers who predicted the audacious move by the company’s founders was destined to fail, perhaps within a year or two of launch.

But four years on, the service is doing well and has obviously taken advantage of its first-mover status. It was the first SVOD to start producing original Arabic series and films, and is also the first player to tap the international Arab expat market with its Arabic content. 

The company has taken on board the many lessons learned during its four years of operation, and renewed its focus on Arabic content over and above pricey Hollywood films and series. With this strategy, founder and CEO Carlos Tibi expects the company to move to profitability within about 18 months to two years.

With numerous other SVODs now in the Middle East and MENA market, including Starz Play, Netflix and more recently iflix, Tibi believes original Arabic content is a key differentiator. “A lot of competitors have entered the market whereas when we first started it was only us,” he says. “We’ve learned so much about the market and today we strive to make ourselves different from any other player and I believe that we differentiate ourselves by being a local company. We’re not an international company and we’re not supported or funded by an international studio.”

Icflix has certainly put significant resources into becoming a local player, opening offices in Morocco, Egypt and Tunis, in addition to its Dubai headquarters.

“When we started icflix we always said that we want to be close to our customers, not only from a company perspective but also to understand taste by territory in the region. That’s why we have offices across the region.”

Having boots on ground in the region’s biggest markets has helped to understand each country better, including the tastes of the local population and how to go about producing content tailored for those countries, Tibi explains.

“Since opening these offices our focus has been local production,” he says. “We’ve already produced multiple products starting with Morocco where our movie, called Burnout, is coming out in theatres by October.”

Directed by Nour Eddine Lakhmari, Burnout is the final part in a movie trilogy formed by Casanegra and Zero. It is co-produced by Nel Films, Icflix, Filmhuset AS Umedia, according to information compiled by IMBD.

Icflix had already tasted success with its own or co-produced local content. Icflix started producing its own content in 2014 with two Egyptian movies, HIV and Makida and has since worked on a steady flow of series and films. During Ramadan earlier this year it aired three original series, Zel Al Raes, Caramel and Ward Joury.

“We’ve already done three titles in Tunis which were released in the cinema, one of which, Borders of Heaven, won an award at Dubai International Film Festival in 2015. We’ve already done six titles in Egypt which all did well in the cinema, and then we’ve done kids’ programming in the form of animation.”


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