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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

OSN to offer instant access for HBO fans; launch Saturday Night Live Arabia

Big news was unveiled yesterday in Dubai at a special event launching OSN’s upcoming projects and 2016 programming,
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep. Patrick Harbron / HBO via AP
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep. Patrick Harbron / HBO via AP

OSN will launch a new channel, OSN First Home of HBO HD, early next year. Dedicated exclusively to shows produced by the acclaimed American cable broadcaster, it will screen shows “at the same minute” as in the United States.

The channel was unveiled yesterday in Dubai at a special event launching OSN’s upcoming projects and 2016 programming, which was attended by Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark in the show, and Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.

The new channel will allow regional fans of popular HBO shows such as Game of Thrones, True Detective and Veep a chance to see them the moment they debut.

In addition, it will screen HBO’s documentary, factual and entertainment content, including the satirical news show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The channel will also be added to OSN’s On Demand service, offering more than 2,000 hours of HBO content, including more than 1,000 hours of complete-series box sets of older shows that can be viewed at anytime.

Noting the changing nature of the television and film industry and the ways in which viewers access shows and movies, Banderas said: “We have to adapt. We started with silent movies and moved on to films such as Singing in the Rain – that movie told a great story. Now my kids watch movies on a phone. I can’t do that – I need glasses just to read – but they do that and they understand it. We have to adapt. There are so many new possibilities.”

Charles Schreger, HBO’s president of programming sales, said at the press conference: “We are on course to set history in 2016 as OSN transforms the entertainment scene in the region with a never-before showcase of award-winning content. The finest in world TV, all in one network. That is what the OSN-HBO team assures.”

OSN also announced that it has signed an exclusive deal with Warner Bros for regional “first and exclusive access” to the studios movie and TV content, and with Eagle Film and Gulf Film to bring out more than 300 blockbuster movies just weeks after their cinematic release.

Arabic content won’t be overlooked in next year’s schedules.

Perhaps the biggest news was the announcement of the planned launch of Saturday Night Live Arabia, a regional version of the long-running American comedy sketch show.

OSN didn’t give too much away about host or cast details, but it has a close relationship with the popular Dubai-based, Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef. He recently opened an OSN-supported exhibition at The Dubai Mall, hosted a gala dinner to celebrate the 2016 line-up announcements, and even took a moment to storm yesterday’s press conference stage and take selfies with stars Williams and Banderas.

When asked about whether Youssef might be part of the Saturday Night Live Arabia plans, OSN chef executive David Butorac said: “Bassem is a great friend and we very much enjoy working with him. I’m sure we’ll have more announcements for you in good time.”

Butorac also stressed that the famously irreverent US series would be remade for a local audience with consideration for local sensibilities.

Upcoming content on OSN’s Arabic channels will include Kosem Sultan, a spin off of the Turkish hit Hareem Al Sultan, localised adaptations of US shows Prison Break, Mad Men and Ugly Betty, and the return of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, with ever-present George Kurdahi (keep an eye on Arts & Life for our interview with the host).

OSN is also set to launch a fourth Arabic-language channel next year, OSN Yahala Cinema HD. It is billed as the first Arabic HD movie channel, bringing new releases from the world of Arab cinema straight from the theatres into viewers homes.

cnewbould@thenational.ae