x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

MTV in the Middle East: matching global trends to regional tastes

MTV is planning a big music festival for the region. We speak to MTV's managing director Raffaele Annecchino about the channel's plans for the Middle East.

Snoop Lion performs at the inaugural MTV Africa All Stars in Durban, South Africa, last month. Courtesy Al Nicoll / MTV
Snoop Lion performs at the inaugural MTV Africa All Stars in Durban, South Africa, last month. Courtesy Al Nicoll / MTV

MTV has big plans for the region. We find out more.

A major event

MTV aims to stage an all-star music festival featuring the best from the Middle East and the international pop world.

The managing director Raffaele Annecchino says the idea took shape after the success of last month's inaugural MTV Africa All Stars concert in Durban, South Africa.

The all-day festival, attended by 12,000 people, was headlined by the rapper Snoop Dogg (performing under his new moniker Snoop Lion) and a range of Africa's leading artists including 2Face, D'Banj and Zahara.

"Our team is looking to develop a similar concept in the Middle East and the Gulf region," Annecchino says.

"Music is a global language and the perfect vehicle to speak constantly to the youth. We saw that by organising and broadcasting the big events all over the world, we can promote the host city and its cultures."

While it's too early to decide on the host city, Annecchino says Abu Dhabi and Dubai are definitely in the frame.

MTV and the Middle East

Annecchino says the Middle East is playing an increasingly vital role in MTV's plans. The entertainment giant values the region's tech-savvy, bulging youth population, he says.

"The first thing I wanted to do when I came to the region was understand and gain local knowledge of local cultures," he says. "We did a big study and the discovery was the generation we are speaking with - this millennial generation - is the most influential section of the population. This generation is hooked on the internet and they integrate technology to their everyday life. They want to be connected and updated."

There is also an element of regional pride. Fans packed out the Virgin Megastore in Dubai's Mall of the Emirates last year to see the Moroccan pop star Ahmed Soultan collect his MTV European Music Award for Best Middle East Act.

"The response was absolutely amazing," Annecchino says. "A lot of people came and they were very enthusiastic. That's why we know we need to do a big music event in the region and now we will hopefully try to turn this idea into a reality."

Respecting the culture

Annecchino states MTV's Middle Eastern programming will maintain its balance of entertainment and cultural respect.

An example of this is the channel's upcoming Ramadan schedule. Music clips will only air after fasting hours and the family favourites Pimp My Ride and Cribs, will return.

"Our strategy is to match global trends with local tastes," he says.

"We of course want to make our content travel as far as it can but we also want to respect the local cultures of each region."

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