CAIRO – 3 December 2017: providing a unique edge for the entertainment industry since 1997, first as a DVD rental company, Netflix continues to successfully grow among internet users as it establishes new trends in binge-watching culture. The world’s leading internet entertainment service has grown popular within the past few years in the Middle East and has been in the Egyptian market for over two years, to expand its viewership among audiences it plans to tailor special shows for Egyptians in 2018.
With over 100 million members across 190 countries, Netflix marks its 20th anniversary as the team explains how the company grew into a massively popular entertainment service provider.
Netflix has been previously accessible only in the U.S as a licensed service provider 10 years ago and prevailed in its first expansion plan seven years ago. The hit series “House of Cards” was among the ‘Netflix Originals’ that launched three years ago as a part of the content made specifically for Netflix. Simultaneously, the company decided to establish a global launch and enter new markets such as Egypt.
Popular Netflix content among Egyptian viewers
The Netflix team visited Egypt last week where they discussed new trends and plans in Egypt as part of their announced plan to spend $8 billion in Netflix programming and intent to invest more in providing Arabic content.
“When we see how people are really excited about Netflix, this is what pushes us to develop more in terms of the business plan of this market where we buy content, sign more contracts with partners and initiate other deals which is our approach here in Egypt,” Leyla Guilany-Lyard, MENA Netflix spokesperson told Egypt Today during an interview at the press conference.
Egyptian fans have watched several shows and films within 2017 including ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ that was watched 162 times throughout the year. With the freedom of watching anything at any time, Egyptians have discovered the joy in on-demand entertainment. Netflix offers of more than 1,000 hours of original programming, amounting for more than 400 titles so far, on top of all the countless hours of licensed programming that they offer..
The most popular shows that have struck a chord with Egyptian audiences’ hearts and minds include the British series “The Crown’” “Santa Clarita Diet”, the cocaine trade drama “Narcos”, “Mindhunter”, and “Stranger Things”. Guilany-Lyard has previously stated in a press release that Egypt’s long and rich heritage of film is a plausible reason for Egyptian audiences being open to entertainment crossing their borders.
“What is crazy with the ‘Stranger Things’ series is that it launched only four weeks ago on Netflix and has already become number one in Egypt among viewers who went crazy for it. Other popular shows among Egyptian viewers are Marvel’s The Defender and Gilmore Girls,” Guilany-Lyard pointed out.
Free from time or geographic constraints, Netflix has announced that the top 2017 binge-watching temptations in Egypt also included season 3 of “Fuller House”, comedies such as “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, “Glow”, “Disjointed”, and “Big Mouth”. Egyptian viewers also showed great interest in ‘dark dramas’ according to data compiled by the Netflix team.
Shows such as “Frontier” were among the most viewed in Egypt for 2017 as well as sci-fi series such as the Brazilian show “3%”, and crime series such as the Mexican series “Ingobernable”, “The Keepers”, and “Marvel’s Iron Fist”.
Netflix team in Egypt – Photo courtesy of Netflix media office
Upcoming plans for the binge-watching culture in Egypt & the world
Netflix is planning to explore further potential in the Egyptian market through a new phase of global and local productions with renowned directors, actors, writers, and agents in 2018.
“We are working actively in this market to find more Arabic content that will be available for all Arabic-speaking people around the world not only Egypt. For example we have previously signed for a comedy show by Adel Karam that will stream in early 2018 when we found out the Arabs love stand up comedies. The show is also accessible all around the world as we plan to bring in more licenses content in 2018,” she elaborated.
More originals will be in store for 2018 including the highly-anticipated new film release “Bright” by Will Smith which will premiere exclusively on Netflix on December 22. When asked about the impact of such exclusiveness on the film industry and traditions of going to the cinema in the future, Guilany-Lyard explained to Egypt Today that being in a parallel line with cinemas will encourage the big names of Hollywood to see the power of Netflix and its availability of content worldwide at the same time.
License to stream
Amid the anticipation of offering more content to please all audiences across the world, Netflix is halted by the constraint of obtaining licenses for streaming certain content in some countries across the world. When a company buys license for content, that licence is not necessarily uniform across many countries, often other companies have the licence to show that content in certain countries, other times censorship laws prevent the distribution of certain titles in some countries.“Our approach is offering the same content for everyone everywhere so we are within talks of providing more Arabic content that is accessible to everyone around the world; however the only limit to that are the streaming rights. For example we don’t have the right to stream “Designated Survivor” in the United States but we have the right to stream it in Egypt,” Guilany-Lyard explained.
Guilany-Lyard also announced the company’s plan to reach another 100 million users, she mentioned that Netflix spent $6 billion in 2017 to create new original content in lure new users in.
Netflix development plans globally
The company is expected to spend an additional $1 billion in 2018 to attain 650 originals that could come from around the world as part of its growth plan. The company’s development plan includes a comfortable user experience where it offers a user interface in 96 languages, for which, Guilany-Lyard highlighted that it is not only a matter of adding subtitles or dubbing to content but also getting all the assets right.
In 2012 the company launched interface with only seven languages; however today it provides many more languages and other special assets such as show synopsis, single titles, and content categories. Netflix streaming also provides a special interface dedicated to children that allows parents to control the content their children watch.
An addition to the entertainment value, Netflix has also become an affordable service, according to Guilany-Lyard, the monthly subscription to Netflix is cheaper than a ticket to a cinema and one user account could provide five people access to the same subscription and recommendations.
A total of an annual $1 billion is entirely dedicated for Netflix’s technology’s innovation to ensure quality. The company discovered during its global launch that the internet in some countries was poor therefore it created tech-related solutions to make it easier for users anywhere to be able to stream.
The “Adaptive Streaming” technology by Netflix navigates buffering to ensure uninterrupted quality in relation to bandwidth in efforts to overcome the issue of unreliable internet speeds in Egypt.
Guilany-Lyard concluded the interview mentioning that Netflix is keen on tailoring special content for themed months and seasons such as Christmas where an awaited collection of films and series for family and children will be announced during December.
The company will not only stop here but will also continue to expand on another series and shows that have grown popular across the world such as Turkish films and series and the Japanese Anime. While 2018 is expected to be a packed a year for Egypt in which second seasons for “The Crown” and “Santa Clarita Diet” will arrive before next June.