An Abu Dhabi broadcaster hopes to bring a new dimension to the Middle East TV market with the launch of the region's first dedicated 3D channel.
YahLive, which beams television signals via an Abu Dhabi-owned satellite, said yesterday it had started broadcasts of the entertainment station High TV 3D.
"Since the movie Avatar a couple of years ago, people have been mesmerised by 3D," said Mohamed Youssif, the chief executive of YahLive.
The 24-hour channel broadcasts news, series and movies in 3D. Viewers will require a special TV set and glasses to experience the channel's three-dimensional effect.
Electronics companies have been keen to push 3D TVs in recent years. However, some analysts have said that consumers have been put off from buying them because of a relative lack of 3D shows.
But Mr Youssif said the technology was more than just a gimmick.
"Many people thought that 3D is merely a gimmick that would wear off quickly," he said. "But to us, we believe that 3D is the logical evolution of the TV experience."
Mr Youssif declined to specify the details of the contract. "We don't announce our financials at all. But the norm is that the channel pays the satellite operator," he said.
Ali Ajouz, a media consultant in the UAE who has been advising High TV 3D, said the deal with YahLive marked a regional first for the channel, based in New York.
He added that the channel was boosting the amount of content it produces globally and said 3D Arabic-language production could be on the cards. Currently, the channel is broadcast in English with Arabic subtitles.
"High TV 3D has over 400 hours of native 3D programming today," he said. "It is in the process of producing a lot of content, and will add approximately 500 hours every year."
Mr Ajouz said he would look to work with local producers to create content in Arabic, as well as converting other shows into 3D. "We'll probably be the first to transmit Arabic 3D content in the Middle East," he said.
Mr Ajouz also said he planned to approach Middle Eastern brands and advertising agencies about creating advertisements in 3D. YahLive is a partnership between the European satellite operator SES and Yahsat, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.
YahLive beams television signals via the Yahsat Y1A satellite, which was launched into orbit last April. Signals can be picked up in dozens of countries in the Middle East, North Africa, western Asia and parts of Europe.
The agreement with High TV 3D marks Yahsat's latest partnership with a TV broadcaster.
YahLive last year announced distribution deals to carry channels broadcast by MBC, Dubai Media and Abu Dhabi Media, which also owns and publishes The National.
Mr Youssif said YahLive now has 25 channels, with more to be added later this year. "We really hope that we get about 50 channels or so before the year-end," he said.