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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