Two of the Middle East’s biggest broadcasters called on Arab filmmakers to start making more genre movies at a Dubai Film Market (DFM) seminar on Thursday (Dec 11).

“We are looking for good quality Arab movies but what we have in the market are commercial movies, that depress me when I watch them, or arty movies produced only for film festivals,” said Khulud Abu Homos, executive vice president, programming and creative services, at pay-TV network OSN.

“Where are the Arabic action and thriller movies?” she continued. “We are looking for these new genre movies, but we don’t see them. The TV audience in this region is young, but there is nothing catering to young audiences.”

Lina Matta, a senior channel manager at pan-Arab broadcaster MBC, agreed: “We are an entertainment channel and filmmakers need to make movies that can be seen by a mass audience.”

“The Middle East is a complicated region, and we have issues, but you can deliver your message without being too heavy,” Matta continued. “People coming home from work want to relax and watch. [Filmmakers] could be looking at the different genres and making movies that are more accessible.”

Abu Homos also called for more diversity in TV drama production: “We only ever see social dramas – where are the legal shows and the action thrillers? We’re looking for drama formats aimed at young audiences with proven concepts and product awareness. We’re also looking for inspirational content – not religious but inspiring audiences about health and lifestyle.”

“We’re also especially interested in gathering comedy concepts,” Abu Homos added. “Yes there are editorial limitations in this region, but comedy could be the next big thing.”

Abu Homos also said she had previously tried to acquire and broadcast a series of Arab short movies, but had to abandon the project because the filmmakers were asking for what she believed were unrealistic prices.

The two broadcasters and a third panellist – Karim Sarkis of multi-platform content creation company Sync Media – also discussed the TV commissioning process in the Middle East.

Sarkis observed that the region’s TV industry does not have a system of producing pilots, which could explain why broadcasters won’t take risks and so much content is repetitive. “Something has to break the cycle – either invest in pilots or rely more on testing more content online,” Sarkis said.

He added: “The producers are also bored with what they are making, but it’s a safe business decision. No-one is taking a risk on them.”

Matta said there has been talk in the industry of investing in pilots, but that Arab stars don’t like to work on them.

Abu Homos also said that the concept of a pan-Arab TV market is still partly a myth. “Most people in the region understand Egyptian Arabic, but the key market is the Gulf, and it’s not as well understood there,” she said.

“There isn’t really such a thing as pan-Arab content. Some dramas have mixed cast from around the region, but they started to lose identity and audience interest.”