Malaysia’s homegrown Nurflix is a ‘sharia-compliant’ streaming platform. The SVOD platform’s CEO Syah Rizal Mohamed says that the proliferation of OTT platforms and the streaming of unmoderated content prompted him to think of launching this platform. “The existing filtering system on these platforms do not really solve the real issue. The only way to have content monitored and controlled is to produce your own content with a pre-set production moulds or guidelines, and Nurflix is a response to this situation,” he says.
Here, in an interview with OTT Watcher, the CEO dwells at length on the concept behind Nurflix, the internal content moderation and unique content classification system that have been put in place, the target audience, sourcing of content, future plans, etc. Excerpts:
What was the inspiration for launching Nurflix?
The idea of Nurflix started when we saw the sprouting of OTTs as well as their content. They can be viewed via big screen or small screen either in public or privately. This content, however, is not monitored and controlled, and these platforms are able to change the thinking and culture of its viewers. The existing filtering system on these platforms do not really solve the real issue. With the improvement of internet speed and connectivity as well as the mushrooming of mobile devices, OTTs have been highly accessible to viewers from all ages. The only way to have content monitored and controlled is to produce your own content with a pre-set production moulds or guidelines, and Nurflix is a response to this situation.
Do you have an app as well or intend to stream only through the website?
Yes, apart from the website, there will be an app on both Android and IoS platforms.
What were the challenges you faced in your initial days?
Just like any new ideas, we had to find a niche and was trying to establish our unique value proposition. Hence, by adopting the blue ocean strategy, we studied the market and identified the current issues in the market. Other than that, one of the challenges we faced was getting people to believe and share the idea of setting up Nurflix, as well as getting angel investors to invest for our mobilisation costs. We started talking and pitched to as many people as we can. Yes, there were quite a number of “rejections”, but there was no turning back for us and we kept going until we met a few angel investors who share and believe in the cause. In case you are wondering, we are moving towards investors stage and we are still open for more investors, be it equity investors and/or production investors.
You intend Nurflix to be sharia-compliant. What exactly do you mean by that? What kind of content will you be streaming?
We will be showcasing the usual mainstream content. However, this content will be screened and guided according to the teachings of Islam. To ensure this, we have established a responsible committee headed by HE Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid, along with HE Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis and his team, to set up what we call the “Nurpath Production Guidelines” (‘NURPATH’).
At pre-post, NURPATH will vet through a story from square one to see if the content contains good moral and/or whether it goes according to the aqeedah and ethics taught by the Al-Quran and As-Sunnah. It does not stop here; NURPATH will also oversee the production processes: The separation of male and female, mahram make-up artist, and the likes.
What is your target audience and which are the countries you intend to focus on?
Our main target audience will come from:
• Supporters of Islamic values and teachings; supporters of family-friendly and family-oriented content.
• Top celebrities and scholars involved in the making of Nurflix.
• Movie enthusiasts who look for quality content and production.
When we officially launch in January 2021, we will be covering Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, at least in the first year of operations before we start exploring other territories.
What is your vision for Nurflix? Where do you see the platform two years from now?
We want Nurflix to be the “Sopan” (polite) streaming platform, hence the tagline “Sopan Stream TV”. We want Nurflix, not just a place to watch movies, but also be a place where viewers can educate themselves. Apart from the mainstream content, we have three other catalogues: education, Tasauf & motivation, and, kids.
Education catalogue is some kind of free learning programmes for pre-schoolers all the way to school leavers. So that they can learn their school syllabus via their TV or mobile devices. In this catalogue, we will also add the learning of the old kitab like Aqqidatul Awwam, Safinatun Najah, Bidayatul Hidayah, and so on. For those who have no time or chance to attend classes, they can always learn these kitabs using their mobile devices in the comfort of their homes and at any time convenient to them.
How has been the response from the filmmakers and the industry in general to Nurflix?
The response has been overwhelming. A lot of filmmakers as well as writers have come forth and submitted their works. To date we have been getting submissions of more than 80 new titles and counting. However, at this point of time, we would like to focus on getting Nurflix above ground by producing our very own 30 pilot episodes before we launch in January 2021. More and more local artists and scholars have stated their interest to take part with us and to join the cause. We have signed and MoU recently with the Faculty of Films, Theatre, and Animation of University Technology MARA (UiTM) and Iskandar Malaysia Studios (IMS) as experts, talents, and production equipment and facilities partners.
How do you plan to source the content for Nurflix? Will you be associating with production houses or will you have your own originals?
In order to produce guided and controlled content, it is our sole intention to produce our own originals using our NURPATH production guidelines. Having said that, it does not mean that we will not work with third-party content producers. Since we want to be an edutainment platform, we will want to populate our content library to give our subscribers more options. However, all third-party content will have to get clearance from NURPATH and follow our production quality requirements.
What is the revenue model you have adopted?
We will adopt the Subscription-based Video-on-Demand (SVOD) platform. We want to create the self-sustaining eco-system where the income from subscription will fund the production of more original content. More subscription means more content will be produced.
In these times of pandemic, new OTT platforms are sprouting with each passing day. What then is your USP and how do you think you will stand out from the rest?
It is not our intention to go head on with the current stream tv giants. As mentioned earlier, by adopting the blue ocean strategy, we have a niche of our own, family-oriented and family-friendly content.
Also, we will not be using the usual content classifications. Our classifications will be U (General), W (Women only), S (Scholars), and K (Kids). Male profiles will not have access to content with W classification.
What are the promotional/marketing activities you have undertaken and plan to do in the days to come?
So far all promotional activities have been organic, such as:
• A-list celebrities and public figures as Nurflix spokesperson.
• Promotions by casts and scholars involved in Nurflix original content
• Massive social media promotion campaigns with referral marketing system.
• Offline branding awareness on selected billboards at strategic spots.
• Radio stations as official media partners. More activities will be added as we go and we might also work with media agencies to help us with marketing/promotional activities/campaigns, if we deem suitable.
What are the future plans lined up for Nurflix?
Nurflix will focus on producing 1,000 original mainstream, educational, Tasauf & motivational, and kids content with approximately 12,000 episodes in the first five years. Nurflix will also acquire content from local and international TV stations and productions that are in-line with NURPATH guidelines for its content library. By the first year of 2021, we target to cover Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. By June 2021, a hub will be established in Indonesia to cover the South East Asia Region. By 2022, it is anticipated that a hub will be established in the Middle East and Europe to cover other international regions.