Netflix's Ted Sarandos, speaking at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2015, spoke of the need for localized content in the Middle East, saying that the region needed a "really great scripted series about contemporary life."
While The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Netflix's promise of hosting workshops and pitching sessions with Middle East producers hasn't yet materialized, local distributors are stepping up to the plate themselves.
Front Row Filmed Entertainment, one of the region's main indie distributors, has teamed with the Kuwait National Cinema Company to produce its first local TV venture, Tough Luck, an Egyptian comedy series set to launch during Ramadan, the peak ratings season, it was announced Thursday,
Tough Luck is a co-production with Ehab Sergany and Ahmed Helmy's Shadow Communications banner, and will be set in a dilapidated tenement of Cairo's notorious fifth district. A number of major regional names have been announced as joining the cast, including Ahmed Helmy, Mona Zaki, Ahmed Sakka, Sharif Ramzi and Mai Selim, alongside such figures from the music world as Mohammad Fouad, Bousi and Hisham Abbas.
Going against the grain of the region's TV landscape - where networks such as MBC dominate much of the output - Front Row and KNCC have struck a deal to control the sales and distribution of the show themselves.
"We are currently negotiating with multiple parties and looking to break the archaic mold of traditional sales and distribution through a game-changing scenario that could eventually bring in a more competitive landscape in the region," said Gianluca Chakra, managing partner at Front Row.
"It's the first time an Egyptian series comprises of over 40 of the biggest names in the Arab world, positioning this as essential viewing especially at a time where family viewing is at its pinnacle [during Ramadan]," added Kuwait National Cinema Company general manager Hisham Al Ghanim.
Tough Luck is now shooting in Cairo, with two seasons being shot back to back. Producers are hoping the first launches in May to coincide with the month of Ramadan, when viewership across the region reaches its yearly peak.
Both Front Row and KNCC have something of a track record in shaking things up in the Middle East, having signed a game-changing output deal with Qatar's beIN Media in 2015.