Former Warner Bros. Discovery and OSN executives are teaming up to form a new content studio serving the Middle East and North Africa, Variety can reveal.
Rise Studios is being set up by industry veterans Emad Morcos, former OSN chief content and commercial officer; Amanda Turnbull, former general manager at Warner Bros. Discovery Middle East, Africa and Turkey; and Amel Farag, former head of content commercial strategy at OSN.
Rise will invest in local content and talent in order to launch homegrown film and TV productions on both regional and global broadcasters and streaming platforms.
“We’re really committed to the region,” Turnbull tells Variety. “It’s changing so rapidly: Cinema is having a renaissance in the region, and all the streamers are also piling in. There’s increasing opportunity and complexity across the landscape and fantastic ideas we want to tap into.”
The outfit, which plans to cultivate a network of local producers, launches on Wednesday with five production partners already in place. The outfits are being brought into Rise’s “studio umbrella” through individual cash and equity deals. (Rise invests cash in each company, which gets equity in the wider Rise Studios banner.)
Initial production partners include: Egyptian scripted series and movie producer, Partner Pro; advertising creative house ASAP headed by Amin El Masri and film director Sherif Arafa; Lebanon- and UAE-based factual reality specialist Different Productions, headed by Mazen Laham; multi-channel venture Watan Network, overseen by Bassel Khair; and Black Typhoon, headed by Omar Hussein, which is funded for the specific development of original content in Saudi Arabia.
Partner Pro produced the regional hit “Finding Ola” and is in pre-production for a second season of the Netflix show. Meanwhile, Different Productions is set to launch “Dubai Bling” on Netflix on Oct. 27, with past credits including “Chopped” for DubaiTV and “Say Yes to the Dress” with Discovery and Starzplay Arabia.
“There are opportunities for synergies, to elevate what they do,” explained Turnbull, who says the wider studio will be able to invest in sourcing scripts and scouting talent, as well as support on commercial conversations around legal and distribution.
The business is also making a significant investment in research in the MENA region. Rather than continuing to rely on research companies such as Parrot Analytics and Omdia, Rise Studios is “investing in our own research,” explains Turnbull. Working with a Singapore-based company, the business will go about collating data and strength mapping in order to map a slate to its target audience.
Rise Studios is backed by Great Mountain Partners, a global investor in the media and entertainment sector, which has previously invested in Concord, Confluential Films, AiMi and A24.
Alex Thomson, founder of Great Mountain Partners, said: “We see great potential in content and talent from the Middle East and are enthused about investing in Rise Studios, led by exceptional industry experts that will further enable and elevate the regional industry on the global stage.”
Emad Morcos, chairman of Rise Studios, added: “We believe that stories can be told differently and champion rich regional narratives that resonate locally and travel globally, leaving lasting impressions. Through collective commercial expertise and data intelligence, we pinpoint the right content for the right platforms, while discovering, supporting, and giving regional talent the recognition that it deserves.”
(Pictured, L-R: Emad Morcos, Amanda Turnbull, Amel Farag)
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