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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ATV is back...again

Jordan's first private TV group is back! ATV which initially supposed to start broadcasting two years ago, but was closed by Jordanian authorities, announced that it will resume broadcasting next spring 2009.

The group will launch three channels simultaneously (a news channel, an entertainment channel, a religious channel) under its new ownership structure (Mr. Radi Al Khass purchased 13% of teh channel from previous owner Mr. Muhammad Alyan; even though the current structure is still murky...)

Info from agencies, Al Akhbar newspaper and own sources.

the most famous shoe

Lebanese channel New TV (famous for its provocative stances) announced today that it was willing to pay for the defense of Mountazar Al Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoe at Georges Bush during his latest Iraqi visit.

Tahssin Khayat -New TV's chairman- also announced that the channel was willing to recruit the Iraqi journalist if he was fired from his job at Al Baghdadiya TV channel.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The future of TV in the Arab world

This is my (modest) opinion on the future of Arab TV in the Arab world.

The Arab TV landscape is rapidly changing, and within 5 years we will probably be facing the following scenario.

Two or three major media groups competing in the Free to Air (and probably entering the Pay TV) market. Currently Rotana and MBC are these two major groups.
Each will propose a number of TV channels to their viewers (general entertainment, sports, news, music etc...) thus combining advertising sales.

Three or four groups that will compete with lesser channels, but with one or two key TV programs. Media groups controlling Abu Dhabi TV and Dubai TV will be the leaders in this category.

To service these powerhouses, a concentration in production companies will probably follow. The Arab market can probably sustain 4 to 5 major groups. The financial of production companies are quite complicated, and in front of large clients (MBC vs Rotana for ex) only cash ready production houses will survice.

Media agency representatives will probably stop being the major players they are today in the TV landscape. Large groups such as MBC and Rotana will end up having their own internal media rep agencies (currently MBC is with CHoueiri group and Rotana has its inhouse Rotana Media Services) External agencies will continue to strive on the number of smaller channels and medium sized players.

Audience research (currently controlled by market leader Ipsos) will need to change. The large media groups will have mor epower than the Ipsos like companies. They might at one point decide to build their own joint research tool (or outsource it to companies such as Ipsos)
The future of the audience research will be to manage to combine out of home TV watching with in home traditional TV.

More integration is expected between Media and Telecom firms. Each might enter the market of the other (very long term) but eventually, Telecom firms are to media groups what supermarkets are to Coca Cola.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The competition continues

In light of the ongoing fight for TV supremacy in the Middle East, Rotana group announced the creation of a number of new channels:
- Aghani (music, specialized in Gulf music)
- a new fox channel (after fox movies) specialized in series

On the other hand, MBC - Rotana's competitor- is also launching a new channel in 2009 - a family channel.

Now all these are Free To Air, as advertising in the Middle East is expected to keep growing....that was before the recession and the drop in the price of oil. What will happen next, is probably even more competition, as the giants of the industry will probably start "eating" the medium sized players.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Week in the press

*Tunisian pollster company : Sigma, published a survey on Tunisian TV watching during Ramadan (prime time)

Tunisian TV Channel 1 (Government TV): 46%
Hanibaal TV (Private TV): 22%
Tunisian TV Channel 2 (Government TV): 21%
Others (Arab channels): 11%

* Jordan Children channel launched its new website

*Syrian banned Al Hayat newspaper (Al Hayat is based in London, but is Saudi owned)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Various snapshots

  • Elaph website interviewed Gabriel El Murr on the subject of the reopening of Lebanon's MTV (see related post) GM denied that the channel was financed by the Lebanese Forces (political party) and said that Qatari funds were sponsoring the channel.
  • The Yemeni Embassy in the UAE objected to the broadcasting of the comic series "Hayer tayyer" on Dubai TV, as various sketches made fun of yemenites living in the UAE
  • After calling for the murder of Mickey Mouse, cleric Mohammed Mounjed Assbah is now becoming a worldwide star. Western press has focused on this fatwa with various specialized websites and talk shows discussing this latest assault on western culture. Another Saudi cleric issued a counter Fatwa, saying that "murdering Mickey Mouse is stupid and pictures muslims as criminals and ignorant people"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fatwa on TVs

Saudi Arabia's top judiciary official has issued a religious decree saying it is permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV networks that broadcast immoral content, reported AP. Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan that satellite channels cause the 'deviance of thousands of people'. Al-Lihedan, who is chief of the kingdom's highest tribunal - the Supreme Judiciary Council- did did not specify any particular channels.

(from AME Info)

Monday, August 25, 2008

MTV's Ramadan

MTV Arabia announced that it will not broadcast music video clips during the holy month of Ramadan, as it might offend its most religious viewers.

The channel will nevertheless keep its Reality TV programs on air. So from MTV's perspective video clips can be offensive but Reality TV programs are cool...funny considering that there are more fatwas issued against Real TV than against video clips...

This is by the way MTV Arabia's first Ramadan.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On Syria's Latest TV Channel

"New Syria TV" started broadcasting this week....
Owned by Abdel Halim Khaddam (former Syrian Vice President, now in exile in France) the channel will broadcast on European Hotbird (probably banned by Arabsat, of which Syria is a member, and NileSat, owned by Egyptian Government)

This is the second Syrian TV channel owned by opponant sto the regime:
ANN (Arab News Network) is owned by Syria's president's fallen out uncle (Rifaat Al Assad). ANN broadcasts from London

and now New SYria TV.

It is interesting to note that both channels are owned by people who at one time where very close to teh ruling Assad family.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Al Jazeera and Samir Quntar

Where is the truth?

After Israel freed Lebanese Samir Quntar (part of the Hezbollah/Israel prisoners and bodies swap), Al Jazeera's bureau in Lebanon organized a party to welcome Quntar (considered by Israel as a criminal, and by Hezbollah as a hero)

Israel responded to this by announcing that it will start imposing visa restrictions on Al Jazeera's staff, as well as it will not help the channel in getting interviews etc.. in Israel. Israel boycotting Al Jazeera!

Israeli daily Haaretz reproted today that Al Jazeera's General Manager Waddah Khanfar sent a letter to Israeli authorities, apologizing for the Quntar welcoming ceremony and pledging to take "administrative measures" against the Beirut bureau...While the Qatari channel's news director was announcing that the channel will never apologize for welcoming Quntar.

This event has to be taken in light of recent changes in the Board of Directors of Al Jazeera: the previous team, considered as anti-US was replaced by a more pro-US members; or at least more neutral directors. But the rank and file (or let's call them the officers) of Al Jazeera still stick to their percieved "pro Arab" stance, which calls for them to welcome Quntar as a hero.

This could explain why while the Board of Directors was apologizing, the rest of the team was still welcoming Quntar. That said, this dual opinion/messages should be to the liking of the Qatari Royal family; after all Qatar has managed a diplomatic expertise in being percieved as both anti and pro US!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Egyptian Broadcasting Law

Arabic version
From the Al Massri Al Youm Newspaper

English version
From the arabmediasociety website

The Algerian Star Academy

Algerian TV (Canal Algerie) will broadcast this Ramadan a religious version of Pan-Arab hit TV show Star Academy (broadcasted by LBC)
The reality TV show entitled "The Knights of the Quran" will feature 16 candidates that will compete for their knowledge and capacity to "tell" the Quran, while living together.
People will vote for their favorite candidates, until the last "prime" where one "Quran Knight" will be selected.

It is interesting to note that Canal Algerie used to broadcast the Lebanese Star Academy (which features Arabic and western dancing as well as sexy girls) but stopped airing the program because it contained "scenes that are against the culture of Islam"

Canal Algerie is owned by the Algerian government. Prime Minister (now resigned) Abed Al Aziz Belkhadem had announced in June that the government would soon launch an Islamic religious channel.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Iran's Al Alam in trouble

Egyptian police raided yesterday Iran's Arabic television's ( Al Alam TV ) offices in Cairo.
The channel (and its Egyptian news editor) is accused by Egyptian police of unlicensed broadcasting, and of helping to produce the "Execution of a Pharaoh" series.

The latter is an Iranian produced series, that reviews the assassination of Egypt's former president Anwar Sadat: the murderers are considered martyrs and the Egyptian president is described as a traitor (for having signed a peace agreement with Israel)

The series strained further more the already very tense relations between Iran and Egypt.

is MTV back ?

Al Akhbar newspaper reported today that MTV (Murr TV, not Music TV) once Lebanon's most hype TV channel, might start broadcasting again...

MTV's story in a glance

Founded by Lebanese politician Gabriel El Murr, and headed by son Michel El Murr, MTV was created to offer a "free alternative" in a very controlled Lebanese media scene (Syria was occupying Lebanon in 2000)

MTV opposed the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and was a mouthpiece for Gabriel El Murr's political ambitions (Mr. Murr was a staunch anti-Syrian politician)

On September 2nd, 2002, the Syrians decided to close the channel (by force)
MTV tried to get back on air in September 2006 (after Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005), but lack of sufficient funds (after the 2006 summer war) prevented its reopening.

Future Prospects

MTV is reopening in order to offer anti Syrian Christians a media outlet (their main competitor - Gnl Michel Aoun - owns Orange TV) for the upcoming 2009 legislative elections.
Problem: Murr's main financial backer - Prince Walid Ben Talal- is already the "real" owner of Lebanon's leading Tv channel LBC

and LBC is itself engaged in a lawsuit againt the main anti-Syrian Christian party: the Lebanese Forces...(if you couldn't follow: it's a mess!!!)

What is sure is that the Lebanese advertising market cannot sustain more TV channels (7, for a market that can probably support only 2 channels) MTV will therefore need political/financial backers...which means; you can kiss independence goodbye!

BUT, the Murr family is also the owner of of the Arab world's largest production facility. The family knows the media business very well, and have proven before that they can attract very creative talent. Will MTV become another OTV ? (much expected, little delivered...) or a new LBC (shake a sleepy market)

to be continued...

Friday, July 11, 2008

414 Arab Satellite TV Channels

The Arab Broadcasting Union announced last week that there was 414 Arab satellite TV Channels, of which:
  • 63 Governmental channels
  • 126 Generalists
  • 76 Music channels
  • 53 "drama" channels
  • 45 Sports channels
  • 25 Business economy channels
  • 21 news channels
  • 21 children channels
  • 15 cultural channels
  • 6 religious channels
  • 3 tourism channels

5-11th July in the Press

- Wissam Hanna joined Future TV in Alam Al Sabah program (Hayat, 5th July 2008)
- Nadine Malah joined Rotana to present Sayidati program (Al Seyassa, 8th July 2008)
- KSA 1 announced its Ramadan 2008 Tv programs (Okaz, 9th July 2008):
SERIES: Aasa Ma Char, Ya Nas Ya howa, Said oua Saida, Ghaltat Nawf, Ibn Kazman
GAMES: a new game presented by Rachad Fkaiha
COOKING: cooking program presented by Dana Nassif and Dana Hamdan
-Rotana Khalijiya and Dream Tv will air the Asmahan series instead of MBC1, after a fight between the production company and the director
- Arabsat launched its Badr 6 satellite (Safir, 10th July 2008)

+ various news and denials on Walid Ben talal acquiring - or not- 85% of LBC Sat

Monday, June 23, 2008

This Week in the Press

Press Review of Media Issues:

1) Arab journalists are protesting in Berlin over the closure of the Arab feed of a local radio (As Safir, 16 June)

2) Arab director Ines Al Doughaidi will soon start her own TV channel: Al Jarika (the courageous or the the one that dares) (Achark, 16 June)

3) French public channels (France and France 3) will soon go on strike, over president Sarkozy's decision to stop advertisments on public channels (Al Hayat, 16 June)

4) 10 journalists from Egypt's Al Hayat Space Channel are threatening to start a hunger strike, because of their lay off from teh channel, and replacement by 10 journalists from Egypt's daily, Al Massri Al Youm (Al raya, 15 June)

5) Fassel Al Badrani - correspondant of Al Arab Al Youm newspaper in Iraq - was honored by the Iraqi journalist association for his work (Al Arab Al Youm, 17 June)

6) Ajyal radio (Generations radio) was ranked first with 38% share in the Palestinian territories, within the 16-25 years old demography (As Safir, 18 June)

7) Zoghby International polling reported that a new survey amongst 7054 news directors, has shown that 44% believe that within the next 10 years, most peopel will get their news from the internet (Ashark Al Awssat, 19 June)

8) Madar Research has reported that the 2007 internet spending in teh ARab world reached a low 20M$ in 2007. This figure is expected to grow to by 600% within 3 years (Ashark Al Awssat, 19 June)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Euro (Arabic) news

Euronews - the European consortium providing news in 7 languages, will be launching on the 12th of July an Arabic feed!

after France 24, Russia Today, DW, BBC Arabic (and years ago US's Al Hurra), a new news channel will be trying to fill the Arabic airwaves emptiness (?) Ok, I'm being ironic, we have so many news channels to watch here in the region, that I am starting to forget there are other things to watch on TV (except those extra short skirts on Arabic music channels)

But the real question is why one more "foreign" channel providing news to the Arab world. What are the governments backing them gaining ? I can understand BBC's Arabic venture (its a brand name easily recognizable in the region) but Arab viewers have no clue who are DW or Russia Today! and to be honest, they do not seem to care.

To be fair, Euronews' feed is probably the least costly of all its competitors (it'll probably just be rehashing of existing feeds). So it might make sense....

I guess I'll now just have to wait for CNN's Arabic broadcast (they already have the Arabic version of their website), but hey, I just remembered! CNN is private (all the others are Government owned), it just wants to make money....well, after all, maybe we won't be watching Larry King in Arabic anytime soon!!!!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008


The battle to offer viewers Free to Air (FTA) US prime movies is on!

On my left, the current leader, part of the MBC family, please welcome.........MBC2
On my right, the challenger, part of the Fox network, please stand up for.....Fox Movies

MBC2's control over the FTA US movies has now (since May 2008) a key challenger. Fox Movies is now celebrating its 1st month bday in the Middle East.

FOX pros:
The channel has access to the huge movies library owned by the Fox studios
MBC pros:
Viewers are used to tuning to MBC for their daily dose of US movies

What this battle of the movies hides, is the real mega struggle to control the Arab airwaves.
Fox Movies (Middle East) is co-owned by Rotana (Walid Ben Talal's group)...
and Rotana and MBC are two biggest media groups in the Middle East.

Rotana Holding owns all the Rotana channels (Rotana Music, Rotana Tarab, Rotana Aflam, Rotana Music) + some religious channels + LBC Sat

MBC Group owns the MBC channels (MBC1, MBC2, MBC3, MBC4) + Al-Arabiya.

These two groups are fighting for the grand advertising prizes (even though the Choueiri Group sells ads for both):
-MBC1 vs LBC Sat (respectively number 1 and number 2 general entertainment channels in the Middle East)
-MBC2 vs Fox Movies (US movies)

so my bet is that MBC is probably studying the possibility of entering Rotana's turf in terms of Arab movies...(Rotana owns the biggest Arab movies library)

I'll be watching this battle...

Monday, June 9, 2008

When Berlusconi invests

London based Ashark Al Awssat reported on Thursday 5 June that Silvio Berlusconi (Italy's prime minister) is investing in the Arab media.

Berlusconi's media arm Mediaset teamed up with Tunisian businessmen (Tareq Ben Ammar, Nabil Qorawi, Ghazi Qorawi - owners of Nessma TV) The partnership aims at selling Italian content to Arab (especially North African) TV channels.
It is not clear if the deal includes Nessma TV.

What is sure is that the rush to provide and create content for Arab TV channels is still on, and Berlusconi's flair is usually quite strong when it comes to media investments.

I think Italian programs can be quite successful in the Arab world:
- culturally, Italy is quite close to North African countries and to the Levant
- physically, Italians are look alike of their Mediterranean neighbors
- Italian women "sell" always very well (no sexisms intended)
- Italians are big on entertainment and well developed games. Expect some format adaptations in the Middle East

remember the Brazilian and Mexican telenovelas ?

Friday, June 6, 2008

In the press today

As Safir reported that a new satellite channel that started broadcasting on Arabsat a couple of days ago (YARA) is probably owned by the Lebanese Forces party* (I will verify the info)

Al Akhbar ran on page 5 a picture of a "Fath El Islam" militant captured by the Lebanese Army. The face of the militant is blurred.....On page 1 of the newspaper, the same picture, but without the blurring!

Saudi publications are talking a lot about MBC's new Turkish series...(this is the second such series MBC broadcasts, dubbed in Arabic) I've watched a couple of episodes from the first one...the girls are hot, the stories are good. this is TeleNovelas of the Middle East

*In 1985, the Lebanese Forces founded the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). The party ran the channel from 1985 till 1994 (when Samir Geagea, head of the party was imprisoned) The channel is now owned by Saudi Walid Ben Talal. The Lebanese Forces sued LBC's current owners

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Opinions on BBC Arabic TV

Included are the opinions of some Arab media experts on BBC Arabic TV

Nadim Jarrah:

David Chambers' take:

My opinion on the issue (in an article by media specialist Habib Battah) :

NY Times:

This was before the launch of the channel....since, well, my company has conducted an analysis of BBC Arabic's newscasts. I obviously can't provide you with the results, but considering that the channel is still in a "test" phase (broadcasting 12hrs per day) results are not bad at all! (more insights in later posts)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The future of TV = video games, SMS and T-shirts

The future of TV = video games, SMS and T-shirts

This opinion was published in Campaign Magazine in December 2006. I thought to add it to the blog as it is still relevant!

With all the ongoing buzz around the internet, its impact on the Arab world, and how many free-to-air channels we currently have, many media experts are not foreseeing how Arab television will change in the next 10 years, and to what extent their business will be modified.

While attending a recent get-together for media executives, I was astonished by the number of people that genuinely believe the number of Arab television channels is bound to decrease. I am afraid this is probably more wishful thinking than factual analysis.

In a recent published study, we showed how the ratio of population to channels (Channels Reach) is three times larger in the Arab world than it is in Europe. All things equal (and with the free availability of cash in our region), the number of Arab channels will probably be multiplied by two or three within 10 years.

In the same study, I made the point that this growth in the number of channels will probably be driven by four elements:

Unsaturated market (channels reach);

Increase in the advertising pie;

Investment in alternative revenue model channels (SMS);

Political, social and economic changes in North Africa.

The latter impact on the market is starting to show, with MBC, LBC and Dubai TV launching "Maghrebiya" versions of their successful models.

As for the increase in the advertising pie, Antoine Choueiri was recently pointing out that he is strengthening his business with the firm belief that the advertising market will increase 10 fold within 10 years.

I would add to these elements the probable increase in the number of pay TV channels; Arabs want quality content, and pay TV has the economic model to offer such a service. The growth will come from an increase in premium Arabic channels (ie Showtime launching its own Arabic bouquet) and through the continuous delivery of the best channels from the US and the UK.

If technology issues such as adopting HDTV will definitely increase short-term operating costs, the real loss generating factor will be the necessary adoption of new processes, workflow tools and the continuous training of the different TV populations. But these will mostly impact short-term operating costs. In the longer term, these are investments that will actually smother the inevitable continuous increase in costs.

"It's all about content!" a thousand times heard, a thousand times forgotten.

Television executives that keep this in mind will always lead the pack. This is easier said than done. Content is difficult to acquire/produce, there are cost limitations, revenues that can be generated are not guaranteed, and this content must appeal to both viewers (ratings) and advertisers (programme engagement).

By investing in content research, and fine-tuning the selection process, television channels will be able to better target the different populations advertisers crave for.

M6, the number two channel in France, currently generates 30% of its revenue through its games, licensing and phone division.

Every programme is initially thought and developed with the clear prospect of generating extra revenue (sometimes more than advertising). Programmes that cannot lead to video games, board games, SMS chatting, T-shirts etc, are more often than not rejected.

We are still far from this level of pre-planning in the Arab world. But this is where Arab television channels (and free-to-air in particular) will find their next leap into the mega-revenues bracket.

This is the future of television, this is television 2.0.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Egypt's Copts get their own channel

Egypt's Christian community, the Copts, started broadcasting their own TV channel one week ago: Kemi Tv

Interestingly, NileSat (Satellite provider owned by the Egyptian government) refused to include the channel in its bouquet. Kemi is now broadcasting form Sweden (of all places) in collaboration with the Syrianic TV (another Christian community in the Middle East) Suryoyo Sat.

The channel is financed by Mr. Adli Abadir, an Egyptian businessman, head of the "Coptic Union"; and is supported by the "US-Coptic Association" headed by Mr. Kamil Habib

On the problems between the Copts and the Muslims in Egypt, check Arab Democracy's post on the subject.

On Lebanon's Orange TV (OTV)

I am always amazed at how most Lebanese channels have absolutely no sense of any political neutrality. One good example is Lebanon's newest channel : Orange TV (OTV)*
When it started broadcasting 1 year ago, the channel's GM** promised an "objective channel, opened to all", and his news director went as far as to promise "the most objective channel in the universe!"
Result: 75%**** of its guests are from the FPM's allies (March 8th alliance) and more than 30% are leaders from the FPM!!

OTV really missed an opportunity to truly bring something different to Lebanon's news environment.

*Orange TV is the newest Lebanese TV channel (1 year old) The channel is unofficially owned by the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) led by Gnl Michel Aoun, officially it is owned by 1000s of individual shareholders
**Roy El Hachem, son in law of Michel Aoun
***Jean Aziz
****Comtrax Solutions Data April 2008