Arab edition Game of Thrones unnecessary, Maaz Sheikh

StarzPlay's first original Arabic series will be 'sensitive to cultural values' following backlash faced by Netflix over Jinn
Maaz Sheikh.
Maaz Sheikh.

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StarzPlay’s first Arabic original production will be based in the UAE but will feature a pan regional storyline.

Maaz Sheikh, CEO, StarzPlay has suggested that the Arab world does not need its own Game of Thrones-style show as Western content and language do not reflect regional cultural values and traditions, sister-publication Arabian Business reported.

Sheikh also said the platform will launch its first Arabic original based in the UAE, but that it will be sensitive to regional cultural values, particularly following the backlash faced by competitor Netflix over its controversial series Jinn based in Jordan.

Viewers slammed the show for featuring intimate scenes, alcohol consumption and vulgar language, which they argued are against Jordanian culture, values and principles. It led the Jordanian government to launch an investigation into the series and the national army’s cybercrime unit to attempt to pull it from Jordanian Netflix.

“There was a lot of negativity and backlash around Jinn, so we’ve been watching that and trying to figure out what works in the region: what it is that people are sensitive about, why consumers accept certain language and scenes in Western language content, but do not accept it for their own Arabic content.

“When we look at our original content, we’re going to be sensitive to that. As much as people say, ‘We want to produce the Vikings of the Arab world or the next Game of Thrones of the Arab world,’ I’m not sure that is the right strategy as far as audience preferences are concerned,” Sheikh told Arabian Business.

Starz Play has a 29% market share in the region which is the largest in terms of subscriptions as well as revenues of 32%, according to the IHS Markit Pay TV & Online Video Report, MENA, 2019.

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