Opinion: Netflix In The UAE...The verdict so far

Is it worth signing up...or are we all holding onto our VPNs?

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So, as many of you might know, Netflix finally became available seemingly without warning in the UAE last week. It’s been a long time coming, but at the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last Wednesday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that the streaming service was rolling out simultaneously in more than 130 countries around the world and the UAE is thankfully one of those countries.

While many expats in the UAE use the service already through a VPN, an official launch gives viewers more options for using the service and finally lets us sign-up using UAE payment methods.

After having the weekend to binge watch a host of shows we finally have a good idea about what the UAE version of the service offers content-wise.

Is it censored? In short: no...

One of the concerns that seemed to come up quite a lot on social media channels when the announcement was made was whether or not the content would face the same scrutiny from the censors as we tend to see with films that reach the cinema. We’re quite used to seeing chunks of movies being removed and many social commentators assumed that this would be the case with services like Netflix too.

From our experience over the weekend though, this certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. We’ve come across quite a few scenes that definitely wouldn’t see the light of day at the cinema if you know what we mean!
While it doesn’t appear that content has been specifically censored in the UAE, there is still the issue of regional licensing agreements that have resulted in certain content not appearing on the service in general outside of the USA. For example, as OSN have the rights to show House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black in the UAE, even though Netflix actually commissioned and produced these shows themselves, they can’t stream them on their own service in the UAE. Other shows like The Office, Suits, Dexter, Lost and Modern Family also don’t make the cut for the same reasons.

Worryingly enough, it seems that a significant amount of content falls victim to this quirk. Currently, only 171 series and 440 movies feature on the UAE Netflix service. Compare that to the United States (1,151 series and 4,588 movies) and the UK (548 series and 2,425 movies) and this makes for grim reading.

While this is disappointing, it’s an issue that affects many other countries around the world also, and one that the Netflix CEO himself says will sort itself out as these original regional distribution licenses expire.

In the meantime, if you already use Netflix through a VPN and are concerned about the lack of certain content then there might not be much of an incentive to swap your original account with a UAE account. Although, if you’re new to Netflix, it won’t harm to sign up for the free 30 day trial and see what all the fuss is about for yourself.

While it might not have the entire catalogue of content that is on offer in other countries, starting at only AED 30 per month for the basic package, it’s a pretty good deal. And with enough content to keep even the most avid viewer entertained regardless, you can’t really go wrong with it.

What to watch...

If you still need some persuasion, here are a few fantastic Netflix original shows that are available to stream in the UAE


 A fantastically put together series about the notorious Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s rise and fall, and the US Drug Enforcement Agents sent to Colombia to bring him to justice. It’s a cross between Breaking Bad and Goodfellas.

Making a Murderer...

Absolutely everybody is talking about this gripping documentary series about a man convicted and jailed for 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit, only to find himself bizarrely in the middle of a completely separate murder investigation when he finally gets released. It’s a must watch, if only to be able to discuss it with your friends afterwards.

Chef's Table...

And now for something completely different. US documentary maker David Gelb takes the viewer on a culinary journey across the globe in this six-episode docu-series, profiling a different world-renowned chef in each episode. The show captures the lives and accomplishments of some of the world’s most innovative chefs across the USA, Italy, Argentina, Australia and Sweden. A must-watch for any foodies out there.

Jessica Jones...

Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Krysten Ritter stars as Jessica Jones, a former superhero who opens her own detective agency after an end to her superhero career. It’s garnered somewhat of a cult following since being released in November.

Master of None...

Aziz Ansari is on a roll. Hot on the heels of last year’s bestselling book Modern Romance, the comic is on top form writing, producing, and starring in this comedy about a 30-year-old actor navigating the ups and downs of life in New York City.

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