Cinemoz- Hulu of the Middle East?

I had initially planned this blog post as a review of the site’s functionality, but after watching it develop over the past few months (v3 was released just before Arabnet), you’ll see that I’ve taken a different route.
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Those who have met me or follow me on Twitter (or see my Foursquare/Get Glue check-ins), know that I’m big on watching TV shows and films. I don’t have any favourite genres per se, but as long as it has a good storyline I’m up for watching it.

A few months ago, just before DIFF, Cinemoz was brought to my attention- a new website out of lebanon that streams films online. The overall concept of their product is not new, even on a regional level- with the likes of istikana.com in existence for some time now- but I was interested in it anyways and  signed up as a beta tester.
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The Cinemoz team…they look like a fun bunch, eh?

Whilst there were a few bugs here and there, as expected in a beta (try it out and give your feedback so they can keep improving it), I was impressed by the collection of films they had on their site. What bothered me though is that they’ve been dubbed as the “Hulu of the Middle East”, and they promote themselves as such. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great that they aspire to be as big and popular as Hulu, but I think they sell themselves short comparing their product to Hulu because what Cinemoz does for online video streaming is totally different.

What Hulu offers is mainstream television shows, with a tiered approach to accessing their product- a free service that gives you access to the latest episodes of shows, and a premium (paid) service that gives you access to entire seasons of shows. If we were to translate that on a regional level, that would- in a way- amount to MBC’s shahid.net and DMI’s similar offering for their set of channels. And this includes the mainstream English, Arabic and dubbed Turkish shows that are aired on TV. If that isn’t enough, istikana.com has partnered with ART for film content. The mainstream thing- yea it’s kind of covered.
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Now, when I checked out Cinemoz’s library when they launched, I found films that you can’t find anywhere else- films by up-and-coming directors, indie films and documentaries, and so on. I’ve noticed that more mainstream stuff is seeping in, but they’re still in a way films that you can’t find anywhere else…yet.

What’s missing in the online Arab world is variety of Arabic content. They’re hungry for it. I’m sure you’ve all noticed how the big TV networks have evolved their programming in the past couple of years: between dubbed Turkish shows (that’s when it really took off), Arab adaptations of game shows, and Arab-language selection for English-language shows on free-to-air channels. You can also see it through the huge amount of traffic YouTube gets from the region. It’s pretty clear that the Middle East is going nuts online and looking for new content there too. 

Cinemoz is almost like an online film festival in and of itself, and that’s how they should position themselves. It’ll set them apart from any other service out there, and  possibly gain a cult-like following if they focus on indie films and documentaries. I truly believe they have something special here.

That’s my personal take on it. Leave your thoughts in the comments (or tweet me).

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