INTERVIEW: A lot can happen in a year, says Shahid exec Jakob Mejlhede Andersen

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DUBAI: In January 2020, MBC Group relaunched its streaming service Shahid with a premium version Shahid VIP.

Since the relaunch, its subscribers have increased 10-fold and the company has made significant investments in original as well as licensed content in addition to expanding its platform to North America.

Arab News spoke to Jakob Mejlhede Andersen, chief content officer of Shahid, about the firm’s progress over the last year.

Before the launch, Shahid offered free content with ad breaks; but was perceived as basically an advertising platform.

The subscription-based, ad-free service existed as Shahid Plus but with much less content than the current premium offering, Shahid VIP.

BIO

  • Jakob Mejlhede Andersen
  • Chief Content Officer, Shahid
  • Joining MBC Group in April 2020, Jakob Mejlhede Andersen is a television entertainment executive with more than 20 years of experience building, launching, and re-positioning channels and online services throughout Scandinavia, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Africa. He has a track record in developing successful content strategies and increasing performance across various platforms.
  • Andersen is currently responsible for the overall content strategy for Shahid and its premium SVOD offering, Shahid VIP. He also oversees MBC Group’s OTT offerings, the strongest in the MENA region.
  • Prior to joining MBC Group, Andersen served as CEO of NENT Studios UK.

With the relaunch, “the expectation was that there will be a good balance between the two services, and I believe we have achieved that,” said Andersen.

Nasser Al-Qasabi’s play “Al Theeb fi Al Qleeb” (“The Wolf in the Heart”) was among the first pieces of content to go on Shahid VIP in March 2020 followed by several shows during Ramadan, which really drove subscriptions, he added.

In response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Shahid launched its #StayAtHome campaign, which offered viewers a free one-month VIP subscription.

The campaign included titles such as “Born a King,” which documents the true story of the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as Originals such as “Fe Kul Esboa Youm Gomaa” (“Every Week has a Friday”) and “Ahd El Dam” (“Blood Oath”).

“We saw a significant increase of subscribers during Ramadan married with the COVID-19 crisis and so we did everything we could to revise and recheck the programs strategy to offer more great content behind the paywall through the summer.”

Andersen stepped down from his role as CEO of NENT Studios, which produces and distributes content mainly in the Nordic region, at the beginning of 2020. He joined Shahid a few months later expecting a “calm” Ramadan period but he was wrong.

“It was very clear in just a couple of weeks in that we needed to do everything we could to acquire and produce content for the summer as we suddenly had a lot of subscribers whose increasing content needs and demands had to be met,” he said.

This resulted in shows such as “Lockdown,” “Al Shak,” “Al Harami,” and “The Case.”