by Sherif Awad 
Since the consecutive launches of the first Arabsat Satellite
in 1985 and the first Nilesat Satellite in 1988, Egypt and the Arab world both
entered the era of free-to-air and pay-per-view broadcasting with hundreds of
channels becoming available to TV viewers on the comfort of the their home
couches. With the growing of internet speed and its number of users across the
world during the last two decades (reaching around 55% penetration reach here in
Egypt) and with the birth of Smart TVs in 1994, TV entertainment crossed over
to a new dimension where availability of content became faster and globally possible
on multiple streaming platforms.
In the US, Netflix was one of the first companies to realize
the rising internet speed at households of consumers and its rising number of
users within each family. Therefore, what has started as a DVD rental service
via post office boxes across the US in 1998 evolved and became the leading
video streaming provider in 2007. Netflix expanded its streaming to Canada in
2010 and now serves over 190 countries including Egypt starting of last
January. As of April 2016, Netflix reported over 81 million subscribers
worldwide, including more than 46 million in the US.
Few days before the Arab world celebrated the start of the
holy month of Ramadan, Netflix decided to host an event at the Greek Campus of
the AUC to present its services to the Egyptian market since many people might
not have known that Netflix application is now available to download on their
smart TVs, smartphones and tablets. Joris Evers, Vice President, Head of
Communications for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Netflix was there to make
a presentation of Netflix to the attendees. Evers joined Netflix in 2011 as
Director of Global Corporate Communications having experience in both technology
journalism and corporate communications. Prior to joining Netflix, Joris worked
at McAfee, an Intel Company and was a finalist in the Online News Association
awards for his service to journalism.  As
Netflix has been expanding during the last two years, he was asked to move to
Amsterdam in order to establish a European headquarter with a team of
marketing, social media and PR.  
Sherif Awad: When it has been decided to launch Netflix in Middle
East and Africa?
Joris Evers: In Netflix, we have always thought that the future of TV
will be on the internet since everybody is online and globally connected to the
world.  Right now, viewers are becoming
used to instant access meaning when you start to hearing about a film or a TV
series, you want to go ahead and watch it immediately. Satellite TV was and
still geographically bounded because films sold to specific territories was
inaccessible in others. Netflix intents to overcome these geographical
boundaries with its services. Hence, came the strategy to expand our global
reach with our two US main teams of workers; the first who is located at
Silicon Valley and focusing on the technological side and second who in Hollywood
focusing on the entertainment side of the service.  
SA: In the US, there are similar competitive services
like Amazon Video and Hulu that both started in 2006. In the Middle East, we
have similar services like Icflix that is also offering Arab content in
addition to Western content.  How do you
plan to manage with the competition? In addition, in Egypt, we are a cash
driven society with services like Fawry and Bees replacing credits and debit.
So how will you collect the monthly subscription?
JE: We are aware that, in Egypt and other regions of the
world, there are obviously competitive services, satellite or linear, that
project the habits of TV viewers. We are also aware that we are still in the
early days of internet TV. However, Netflix established prices point two years
ago and so our customers can get a lot for not so much money 9.99 USD. Netflix
also started to produce original content, which is available to all viewers
worldwide in countries like Brazil, Korea and Spain in order to overcome the
constraints of rights when acquiring from other film and TV producers. We might
also think of other alternative ways of receiving payment (right now it is via
Paypal or credit cards) according to the region where we are operating. 
SA: How will Netflix overcome possible censorship in the
Middle East?
JE: Internet TV is different than broadcast because it is
fully on demand meaning any subscriber has the right to choose what to view,
when to view it and on which platform. From its side, Netflix tries to provide
information about any content like age classification and genre. Hence, the
subscriber can know what to expect when selection to see a TV show or a film.
On Netflix interface, each family member can create his own profile with his
favorite shows in addition to create a specific profile for kids in the
SA: What can we expect from Netflix in the upcoming
JE: In addition to the original
films and series we produce, we have recently acquired Arab content like the
Emirati thriller Zenzana (Rattle the Cage) by Majid Al Ansari with Palestinian
actor Ali Suliman and Saudi actress Ahd. Also, among our documentaries, we
acquired the award-winning The Square by Jehane Noujaim. Recently in
Cannes festival last May, we acquired the new Lebanese film Divines by Houda
Benyamina, winner of the Camera d’Or (the directorial debut award).

Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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