Former OSN, Warner Bros Discovery Execs Launch Mena-Focused Rise Studios, Talk Multi-Format, Premium Strategy

Middle East and North Africa film and TV industry veterans Emad Morcos, Amanda Turnbull and Amel Farag have joined forces to launch MENA-focused company Rise Studios, with the aim of breaking fresh ground in the region as a provider of premium content across all genres.

Morcos is a former Chief Content and Commercial Officer at Dubai-based multi-platform entertainment company Orbit Showtime Network (OSN); Turnbull was previously General Manager at Warner Bros Discovery Middle East, Africa and Turkey, and Amel Farag was former Head of Content Commercial Strategy at OSN.

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The trio have ambitions to build a company that is capable of producing a steady flow of content across all genres and formats by talents based across the Middle East and North Africa, that is suitable for movie chains, streaming platforms, free-to-air and digital television and social media channels.

“I came from the other side of the equation. I spent many years at OSN which is the largest pay platform in the region,” said Morcos, who takes on the role of chairman, explaining the idea behind the new company.

“When we looked at Arabic content it was always a challenge for us to speak to different producers from Egypt, Saudi or Lebanon to really forward plan. We couldn’t have one unified conversation,” he said.

Taking a U.S. studio-style approach, the trio have spent the last 18 months signing up a bouquet of different production companies from across the region under the Rise Studios umbrella. 

“We didn’t just slap on the studios name just for the sake of it. It was really about going out there and creating a studio by consolidating a number of production companies across the region, that represent different specialisations,” said Morcos. 

“We could have taken the investment and started to produce on our own but we decided that the best way forward was to find productions companies that were successful, that had the right pedigree in terms of being forward-thinking and moving quickly to adapt to what is happening in the region. We also wanted to work with companies who really understood the premium aspect of what was required. There is such a high expectation now by the audience.”

The first companies to join the group are Egyptian scripted series and movie specialist Partner Pro and advertising creative house ASAP headed by Amin El Masri and renowned film director Sherif Arafa.

Rise Studios has also signed-up Lebanese and UAE-based factual reality specialist Different Productions, headed by Mazen Laham, and Watan Network headed by Bassel Khair. Also within the ecosystem is 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 on second season of the popular Netflix show. Different Productions is set to launch Dubai Bling with Netflix on October 27, having successfully launched Chopped with DubaiTV and Say Yes to the Dress with Discovery and Starzplay Arabia.

Watan Network is one of the largest multi-channel networks in the Arab world with over five billion combined views monthly and 14 billion watch time minutes per month on YouTube, Facebook and Snap. Black Typhoon is an established Saudi Arabian producer whose founding team have over 10 years of experience creating content for platforms including UTurn, OSN and MBC.

Rise Studios leverages its funding to create owned intellectual property (IP) that reflects the regional zeitgeist and delivers the type of content that audiences are looking for. The company is backed by Great Mountain Partners (GMP), a global investor with an exceptional track record of investments specifically in the media and entertainment sector. 

GMP is known for viewing its investments with longevity and is part of the expansion journeys for acclaimed media groups including Concord, Confluential Films, AiMi and A24.

“We are excited about partnering with Great Mountain Partners for this venture as a specialist media and entertainment global investor, with immediate access for Rise to an ecosystem of IP producers from across North America and Europe,” commented Turnbull, who takes on the role as Chief Executive Officer.

“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,” added Alex Thomson Founder at Great Mountain Partners.

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