Middle East-based streamer Shahid is looking to “substantially” ramp up budgets for its original high-end drama from the $1m per episode mark, as part of its “ambitious” strategy to expand partnerships outside of the region.
The streamer, which is part of the Saudi Arabia-backed MBC Group, has been rapidly increasing its international outlook over the past 12 months, appointing a raft of execs and revealing plans to quadruple its original scripted production over the next two years.
Jakob Mejlhede Andersen, who was named chief content officer at the streamer last month, told the inaugural TBI Talks yesterday that he was now looking to forge relationships with producers across MENA but also further afield.
“We produce shows that are somewhere around the $200,000-per-episode level up to shows that are substantially more expensive,” he said, pointing to 2019 series Kingdom, which had a reported budget of $40m.
“It depends of course on the project but we’re looking for a mixture of low, medium and high-cost series – but they have to make a dent and resonate to our audience.
“There have been tons of stories on MENA from the outside but we want shows told from the eyes of our audience in the region. What you’ll see is the world’s next Fauda coming from MENA, but with substantially higher firepower behind them when it comes to budgets.
“These budgets are ever-evolving – right now, high-end could be $1m-per-episode but it is likely to be up substantially over the next couple of years as the understanding of SVOD continues.”
Mejlhede Andersen, who stepped down as CEO of NENT’s UK division in February, added that he was “very open for business” with producers from outside the region and said there were “very good” opportunities to work with production sibling MBC Studios. “We can be the ideal facilitator for [international producers’] stories to come to life.”
The exec added that worldwide Arabic-language rights were needed, adding that series in dual language – principally English – were also required.
Britbox calls for development opportunities
Soumya Sriraman, president & CEO at North American streamer BritBox, also revealed how her SVOD operation was adapting to the Covid-19 crisis and told TBI Talks direct from New York City that she had been amazed by the “inventive ideas” coming out of the pandemic.
She highlighted the success of the Sheridan Smith-starring lockdown series Isolation Stories and added that BritBox was currently looking to expand its development slate.
“Please keep coming to us, this is a perfect time to be developing because we’ve found we have much more time to spend time on scripts. We’d love to get things lined up – for sure, some things will fall away but others will come in. I don’t have a crystal ball in terms of what might fall away but we are definitely looking, so do please come to us.”
Sriraman also said that her North American-focused division of BritBox still only wanted US and Canadian rights but she added that the SVOD was increasingly exploring “adjacencies” with the service in the UK and would be doing likewise with its Aussie off-shoot, which was revealed in March.
“We’ve not done that yet because there are lots of moving parts but we are absolutely looking to see how we can all perhaps get a show off the ground that might not have happened yesterday.” Budgets range from “low six figures to seven figures”, she added.
The first TBI Talks also featured insights into how the distribution side of the industry is reacting to the pandemic from TCB Media’s head of sales Simona Argenti, as well as Sheridans’ lawyer Jeremy Roberts discussing the legal ramifications of a return to production, and an in-depth overview of Covid-19’s impact on the global media landscape from Omdia’s Maria Rua Aguete.
To watch the session on demand, please click here.