Rights are the New Black: Netflix UAE a work in progress

In an exclusive interview, representatives tell us why House of Cards and Orange is the New Black aren’t here yet – and that the US Netflix isn’t necessarily the best


Netflix has been making huge waves. Following its surprise leap into 130 new countries announced at last week’s CES, global and regional media have been waxing lyrical about the company. But one week on, in the cold light of day, what does the video-on-demand service bring to the UAE? #GNTECH sat down for tea and cupcakes with a couple of representatives to find out.

Netflix team
Yann Lafargue, Manager, Technology and Corporate Communications, EMEA, and Joris Evers, Vice-President, Head of EMEA Communications

One criticism of Netflix has been the vast difference in the number of movies and TV shows in the UAE (611) when compared to the US (5,739) – and even Tuvalu (1,676), a Polynesian island nation in the south Pacific with a population little more than 10,000. You can see an updated list here. Note that this website is not endorsed by Netflix.

Netflix Gotham
Screengrab of the Netflix UAE main page as seen on a smartphone. Making A Murderer and Gotham are the two highlighted TV shows

Netflix hits and misses

Critically acclaimed shows such as Daredevil, Narcos and Jessica Jones are all present in the UAE service. Missing content includes Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, the Netflix Originals series that first put the company on the map as a entertainment producer as opposed to a simple channel. And, as of this moment, there is no Arabic or Bollywood content on the UAE site either.

“It’s not always up to us,” says Joris Evers, Vice-President, Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Communications.

“We have been buying the global rights for titles over the past year or so, until we amassed what we felt was a good amount to be able to actually offer a service everywhere.”

“With Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, it’s great that people know them and associate them with the brand in places like the UAE – even if they aren’t on Netflix here. As a result, people associate us with great-quality programming.”

Netflix Narcos
Narcos is one of the hit Originals series available in the UAE – but no Orange is the New Black (yet)

Originals origins

These two shows were the first of the Originals series the company had produced, and represented at that time (2011) a huge gamble for the company, explains Evers.

“Not everybody in the company was convinced about [Originals] then, so we didn’t purchase the rights for those shows globally. We only got rights for the countries we were in then – the US, Canada, Latin America.”

Yann Lafargue, Manager, Technology and Corporate Communications, EMEA, says, “We weren’t sure of how successful the geo-expansion strategy would be – it could have taken us 20 years to get to all these countries.”

License to stream

Netflix makes no money from licensing its content to pay TV providers – that goes only to the production company making the show for the streaming service. All its money comes from subscriptions.

Evers explains, “We don’t actually own Orange is the New Black and House of Cards – we are the license holders for the shows in some markets.” The programmes are actually owned by the production company contracted by Netflix to produce. It sells the content to TV service providers in the way that’s happened with TV shows and movies for many years.

That’s why OSN is able to show the two series in the UAE while Netflix isn’t – at least not yet.

“When it comes to Orange is the New Black, we have been able to secure some more rights. We hope to bring it to the Middle East and North Africa in the near future. With House of Cards, it’s a work in progress.

“In a number of years, there will be little difference between what’s on Netflix in the US and UAE.”

More coming soon – watch this space


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