New Dubai-Based Blue Engine Studios Chief Talks Deal With John De Mol to Bring ‘Avastars’ to Arab World (EXCLUSIVE)

Veteran Arab TV executives Ziad Kebbi and Hani Ghorayeb have formed Dubai-based Blue Engine Studios, a new content creation and production company dedicated to scripted and non-scripted shows targeting the booming pan-Arab OTT market as well as linear TV channels.

As their first announced move Blue Engine has inked a deal with John De Mol’s Talpa Concept under which they will bring “Avastars,” Talpa’s new music and dance talent show, which uses motion capture and augmented reality technology, to the Middle East and North African markets.

For the Arabic version of “Avastars” Blue Engine has inked a deal with top  Middle East broadcaster MBC. The show will be available on MBC’s channels and on its streamer Shahid VIP, produced by Blue Engine Studios.

Kebbi pointed out that the “Avastars” deal with an Arab media outlet will be “the first international commission” for the high tech format outside The Netherlands where De Mol’s new show – in which human singing talent controls the avastar’s facial expressions and voice, while dancing talent wears a special suit to control the movements of the avastar’s body and head – will air on Talpa-owned channel SBS 6.

Kebbi (pictured, left) is a former president of Sony Pictures Television Arabia who has produced and delivered the local adaptations of international formats, such as “The Voice,” and “Deal or No Deal” for MBC, and who is now serving as Blue Engine’s CEO.

Blue Engine’s Chairman is Ghorayeb (pictured, right) who is President of the International Advertising Association’s UAE chapter and has played a key role in fueling MBC’s growth. While the company’s COO is former ITV Studios Middle East production chief Jenane Mandour.

“Together we will have a better and deeper understanding of the market; the needs of the market, whether it’s streaming platforms or free-to-air broadcasters,” said Kebbi.

Kebbi said Blue Engine has signed an exclusive cooperation agreement with Talpa Concepts under which besides “Avastars” they will be exclusively carrying De Mol’s library of formats in the Middle East comprising hit shows such as “Marble Mania,” and “Hit the Road.”

Blue Engine has also been developing their own original formats, including a still untitled dating show, which would be a first for the largely Muslim Arab market. “Dating has never been explored in the region,” Kebbi noted, saying that they have “found the way that it would work in our area, keeping in mind all the restrictions.” This way involves setting the six-episode dating show “in a car.”

He added that Blue Engine is in advanced talks with a streaming player on their original dating format, which they also aim to export outside the region.

Meanwhile Blue Engine is also getting into scripted content with several high-end original Arabic dramas in various stages of development, details of which are being kept under wraps.

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