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Prime Video Cuts Funding in Africa, Middle East in Favor of Focusing on European Originals

Amazon Prime Video is restructuring its international business to focus on European originals. The re-org will involve cutting content and staff in Africa and the Middle East.

Shows from the MENA region that have already been greenlit or contracted are still on the slate, including “LOL ZA” and “Ebuka Turns Up Africa,” but it may stop greenlighting local originals in Sub Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa for the foreseeable future.

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Although Prime Video will continue to operate in those territories, there may be redundancies in the local teams.

Meanwhile the European team will be split into two, both reporting into Prime Video Europe VP Barry Furlong. One, known as EU Established and led by country director for France Brigitte Ricou-Bellan, will focus on the U.K., Germany, Italy, France and Spain. The other, EU Emerging, will focus on growing businesses in Benelux, the Nordics and CEE. It will be led by Ritchie Ordonez, director of Benelux, CEE and Turkey.

It remains unclear whether the European restructing will lead to layoffs within Prime Video’s teams in Europe.

The company also intends to hire an executive in a new role, currently defined as director of EU content and programming strategy, who will work with both U.S. and international colleagues on the Amazon MGM Studios pipeline.

In the email to staff, Furlong said: “We’ve been carefully looking at our business to ensure we continue to prioritize our resources on what matters most to customers. I have carefully evaluated our structure in the region and decided to make some adjustments to our operating model to rebalance and pivot our resources to focus on the areas that drive the highest impact and long-term success. I have listened and considered the feedback received across the teams over the past 12 months; I believe these changes will improve the operational running of our multi-territory business and allow us to be more agile and focused.”

As Variety reported last year, Prime Video had been bolstering their investment in Africa and the Middle East, including establishing dedicated country teams for both Nigeria and South Africa, hiring a raft of new employees and inking a number of multi-year licensing deals. Africa had been a priority within this plan, while across the Arab world Prime Video had not commissioned any originals.

“We want to make sure that we’re really telling the stories of whole communities that have never even been able to see their stories on camera before,” said Ned Mitchell, the Los Angeles-based head of originals for Africa and the Middle East for Prime Video and Amazon Studios, in an interview with Variety last year. “And we think that the new standard that we’re hoping to create, in working and producing premium content, will attract all African storytellers and crews and talent who want to join us in creating those stories. And if we can get that right, I really don’t think there’s a limit to where we can go next.”

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