Streaming platform Viu has been the talk of the town with its two much-anticipated releases, Ansaf Majaneen, and Wadi Al-Jinn.
So we had the chance to sit down with Viu’s Middle East General Manager, Abe Shady Aboul Naga, to understand the process of choosing a show, the platform’s inspiring focus on Arabic and young content, and new projects.
By Aliaa Elsherbini
What, in your opinion, differentiates Viu from other streaming platforms?
We are focused to really connect with our target audience and be relevant to them. I think the audience segment that we focus on, which is the Gen Zs, has been seriously neglected when it comes to the mainstream media. That’s why they’ve been migrating to watching things online and on YouTube.
But in the traditional sense of media production, they are really neglected, and we try to remedy that, and address them. I wouldn’t say that we are the only ones, but I think we are ahead of the curve, and we are doing a pretty solid job in addressing that.
Why focus on Arabic content?
We are in the Middle East and we are Arabs at the end of the day, so we have to focus on Arabic content. I grew up watching Western content, not because I prefer Western content, but because I didn’t have the kind of Arabic content that really addressed my needs or made me think.
There is all of this really cool Western content, but when I look at Arabic content, it doesn’t compare. But if you grew up today and that content is available, then you are going to have a lot more Arabic consumption and I think it is our duty to really invest in this industry and the content we put out there as it is a big part of our lives and it shapes our understanding of everything around us.
Can you tell us more about Ansaf Majaneen and Wadi Al Jinn?
An idea could come from a pitch, or from a book that we liked, which is the case with Ansaf Majaneen. While in the case of Wadi Al Jinn, it’s based on an original idea.
Tell us about the process of choosing the content to produce or create.
We have an ongoing process where we try to build a slate. We get 100 ideas, shortlist them, and then take some to the market where we research and conduct focus groups to see which are the best.
We rate them based on their novelty aspect, then benchmark them against each other in rounds. We do around four shows in a row and compare to see which scored the highest. Based on these scorings we develop them further, do the script and the writing, then go into production. That is an ongoing process there is always content being evaluated.
We have these two (Ansaf and Wadi), but over the past three years, we have evaluated perhaps 60 different shows in-depth and in detail. These shows started close to two years ago, so if I want to release 20 originals three years from now, I need to start now because we believe that the more time you spend in the development that’s when you get the best out of the show.
Are there specific genres or themes you want to focus on in 2021?
We don’t say, “This year we’ll be doing a horror and a comedy.” We have a list of the kind of things we want to do, and we get submissions, and we look at them. We might have two supernatural shows coming up, or it could be one supernatural, and one social drama, it depends on what is scoring high and what is doing well.
We hear you have a new partnership with FOX+, what does it entail?
We always try to understand what the audience wants and what they are looking for. And Western content has repeatedly come up, as there is a lot of demand for it.
We wanted to be able to offer some of the best available Western content and fortunately for us, FOX has a branded service where they offer a lot of series, movies, lifestyle content, so we got into this partnership, and we just recently launched. There are always going to be new releases on a monthly basis from FOX.
What’s next for Viu?
Right now, Ansaf Majaneen and Wadi Al Jinn are what’s next. They will be coming out very soon, with Ansaf in January, and Wadi in February. Then we will be making some new announcements soon about upcoming originals.