Turner Broadcasting, a unit of the US media conglomerate Time Warner, has signed a partnership deal with the Jordan-based production company Rubicon Group to broadcast around the world children's television shows produced in the Middle East. The agreement covers the development, co-production and broadcast of TV content, and will see three of Rubicon's children's shows - Ben & Izzy, Tareq wa Shireen and Pink Panther & Pals - broadcast on Turner's Cartoon Network in the MENA region starting in October.
Randa Ayoubi, the chief executive of Rubicon, said the deal would help increase international exposure for Arab content. "There haven't been enough shows - for children or grown-ups - that tell our stories in engaging ways. And there is a lot of room for growth in that area," she said. Rubicon and Cartoon Network will also develop merchandising programmes around the launch of a new series of Ben & Izzy, the animated comedy in English and Arabic, and Tareq wa Shireen, the Arabic-language series focused on Arab heritage and culture.
The two shows will be rolled out to additional regions including Europe, Asia and North America "within nine to 12 months", said Chris Groves, Turner Broadcasting's senior vice president for business affairs and the managing director for the Middle East region. Pink Panther & Pals is already broadcast internationally on the Cartoon Network. "This partnership is aimed at taking great content from this region and showing it around the world. It's not just about broadcasting, but also consumer products: anything from T-shirts to duvets and toys," said Mr Groves.
The Cartoon Network goes out to a potential 35 million homes in the Middle East and more than 200 million homes in the rest of the world, he said. Turner operates Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Turner Classic Movies and CNN International channels in the region. It plans to take Cartoon Network Arabic to free-to-air platforms from October, a move that will mark a shift in its business model and mean the launch of an advertising sales operation in Dubai.
"It means building a business around advertising and merchandise. Our commercial base is likely to be in Dubai. To date we've run that out of London, which has been limiting," said Mr Groves. The two parties could work on additional co-productions in the future, he said. "Animation takes time to produce. But I'd expect it to grow fairly steadily," he said. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org