The changing face of region’s TV landscape
BEIRUT - Khulud Abu Homos is a TV and film production veteran. The Palestinian entrepreneur was part of the inception of the first paid TV platform in the MENA region — Orbit. Her career at the American Orbit Showtime Network led her to a commission from the UAE government to build the infrastructure of the cinema industry in the region.
She is the founder of Art Format Lab, an executive production company in Dubai that delivers premium and socially relevant Arabic scripted and unscripted content. Abu Homos has international formats from Hollywood, Europe and Asia adapted and produced in Arabic for the Gulf and MENA region.
She spoke to The Arab Weekly via Skype, revealing the transformation of the screen in the region.
Developing and producing original local entertainment formats and remakes of international movies are alive and thriving.
The Arab Weekly (TAW): What do Arab television audiences look like nowadays?
Khulud Abu Homos (KAH): “Nowadays, the Arab audience has access to a profuse of content with a click of a button. With international streaming platforms, such as Amazon and Netflix, adapting to paid TV platform business model, Arab audiences are able to enjoy shows and series from all over the world. Although the competition to produce captivating content may be fierce, there is still a strong need for relevant Arabic content.
“The demographics of the Arab audience is quite unique as 80% of the population of most Arab countries, especially the Gulf region, is under 35 years old. A lot of the content must be geared to the youth. Moreover, the highest viewing audience of TV are women in the region. Therefore, they are an impactful decisive power on the content aired.”
TAW: What types of films are Arab audiences interested in?
KAH: “It’s hard to lump the Arab film taste into one genre. Egyptian cinema is the most thriving cinema industry in the region with original productions in comedy and drama. For so long, Egyptian comedies were the only commercial productions in the region.
“However, the Gulf region is witnessing a shift in the cinema culture with government entities putting more money and resources into local productions. The Gulf region audience is saturated with dramas because Gulf dramas during the ‘90s were the most produced local content in the region.
“The majority of the population in these regions is below 35 years old and a strong movement towards the genre of action and fantasy thrillers is brewing, not in just movies but also in local literature.”
TAW: How do you localise an international movie for Arab audiences?
KAH: “We take into account the relatability of the characters’ storylines. The stories must be based on the everyday lives of the audience members so that the characters would fit in their setting. The archetypes of characters are easily transferrable because they express universal truths. It’s the characters’ makeup that we sometimes have to redress and adapt.”
TAW: How are local screen stars adapting to that change of format?
KAH: “By the time a project is in production, it has already gone through the writing and rewriting phases. The adaptation of the project is usually the job of the producer and writers. Actors come in and receive an Arabic script. They build characters from their own identities and experiences and treat the work as an original because that’s what will reach the audience.”
TAW: Is TV ever going to disappear from the region?
KAH: “Isn’t that the question of the century? The Arab region is tapped into the international media world. Producers worldwide are concerned about the extinction of TV with all these new digital platforms. I think that the digital media evolution has only opened the door for a wider audience to tune into shows and series. It has certainly enabled various content creators to tap into the industry more feasibly.
“TV channels have turned into a streaming brand more than just a broadcasting channel with MBC’s digital platform Shahid. The BBC has done the same with BBC iPlayer. As of now, broadcasters are adapting to the shifts and changes of the industry but, as content producers, we are able to reformat shows and series into the platform they are streamed through.”