De-territorialized digital capitalism and the predicament of the nation-state: Netflix in Arabia

Joe F. Khalil*, Mohamed Zayani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In 2018, Saudi Arabia and Netflix were forced to confront the limits of freedom of speech online. The kingdom requested that the streaming giant remove a critical episode of the satirical show Patriot Act with Hassan Minhaj from its local service, and the latter complied at the risk of reputational damage. Focusing on the controversy surrounding this case, this article explores how both state and business adopt and adapt to changes in technology and how each reasserts its sphere of influence in the digital era. We argue that state and business are developing a symbiotic relationship in the context of de-territorialized digital capitalism. Such a relationship allows both entities to engage in mutual interdependence that accommodates the interests of the other while avoiding harmful consequences and deleterious effects. In practice, the state exercises targeted censorship while businesses abide by controlled compliance. The account and analysis presented regarding the logic of symbiotic relationship draws attention to the various ways in which global media players in the digital era have navigated territoriality and the extent of state–business mutual accommodation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-218
Number of pages18
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Middle East
  • Netflix
  • SVoD
  • Saudi Arabia
  • censorship
  • de-territorialization
  • digital capitalism
  • nation-state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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