Fox International Channels, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire, plans to launch channels in the MENA region next year, and says all of its regional broadcasts will be in high definition by 2012. The global media conglomerate broadcasts 12 channels in the MENA region, including Fox Movies, Fox Series and Star World.
It also produces National Geographic Abu Dhabi in Arabic through a partnership with the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which owns and publishes The National. Fox is evaluating the launch of additional entertainment channels next year, according to Rohit D'Silva, the general manager of Fox International Channels Middle East. "We do have brands we can launch. We hope to add at least a couple more in the next year. These could be pay-TV or free-to-air," said Mr D'Silva.
"We constantly evaluate opportunities both on the free-to-air and pay-TV sides. We have a few things in mind. In the last two years we've launched three very prominent channels. We are not guys who sit around." Mr D'Silva declined to specify which Fox International channels were under evaluation for launch in the region. Properties such as Fox Crime, Fox Life, which is geared towards women, and FX, which offers "unconventional drama and comedy", are among those the company does not broadcast in the MENA region.
"We are evaluating various channels. In many markets in which Fox International Channels operates we have in between 10 and 18 channels," he said. Five of the channels that Fox International broadcasts in the MENA region are in HD, and Mr D'Silva said all of its operations would switch to the format next year. "We believe HD is going to be very important. We've been very aggressive in rolling out HD," he said. "Fox Series will be in HD by the end of the year ? We will be able to offer all our channels in HD well before 2012."
Mr D'Silva said Fox International intended to pursue its strategy of broadcasting across both pay-TV and advertising-driven free-to-air platforms, and said he expected growth in both categories. "Both of these segments are going to grow. We will see them co-exist. The free-to-air market is 50 million homes ? which is tremendous reach. The position of pay-TV has not been what channel groups like us would have hoped for. But there seems to be a case that pay-TV could do significantly better," he said.
Media monitoring agencies report a rise in advertising spending in the Middle East. Television revenues of pan-Arab, UAE and Saudi Arabian TV stations rose by a quarter in the first 19 days of the key Ramadan period, according to Ipsos MediaCT, which tracks advertising spending in the region. With such growth in mind, Mr Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, identified Abu Dhabi earlier this year as a key location in his company's efforts to expand across the Middle East.