x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Britons and Indians join TV stampede

Global television brands MTV India and the BBC are in talks with Middle East broadcasters about new channel launches.

Two global broadcasters are in talks with Middle Eastern media companies about launching channels in the region's already crowded television market.

The company behind MTV India this month opened an office in Dubai, and is pursuing agreements to beam the music station to more Middle East countries.

Separately, the BBC says it is in discussions to launch more of its English-language stations in the region.

More than 500 free-to-air channels vie for viewers' attention in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), where spending on TV advertising is worth about US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) a year.

Despite being a crowded industry, global broadcasters are pursuing deals for wider distribution of their channels.

The Indian entertainment company Viacom18 - a joint venture between the US media giant Viacom and Indian's Network18 Group - said this week it had opened an office in Dubai.

Part of the purpose of the new office will be to expand distribution of the MTV India channel in the region, said Gaurav Gandhi, the head of distribution and international business at Viacom18.

"We want to grow MTV India distribution," said Mr Gandhi. "We are in discussions to get that in the Middle East. In the next quarter or two, we should have something on MTV India."

MTV India is currently available in Qatar, as well as global markets such as the US, Singapore, Australia and India.

Mr Gandhi said Viacom18's new office in Dubai Media City would handle sales, marketing and distribution for the broadcaster's TV brands.

Its main role is to help to push Colors,its flagship entertainment channel, across the Mena region, said Mr Gandhi. "The idea is to make Colors available to as many households as possible."

Viacom18's regional advertising sales were previously handled by its distribution partner Pehla. But the broadcaster will now sell advertising to Arab clients using its own sales team based in Dubai.

Mr Gandhi said advertising revenues from this region were good, but "could have been better".

He said the amount of advertising targeting Indians living in the Middle East was not in line with the high population of expatriates from the subcontinent.

"[The] entertainment industry in the Middle East holds a remarkably high potential for South Asian channels," he said.

"We've very confident … that with that full team we can build revenues. I really think the momentum will shift and that the ad dollars will follow the eyeballs."

The BBC has also said it is in talks to beam more of its TV channels to the Middle East.

It has a deal to broadcast the English-language stations BBC Lifestyle, BBC Entertainment and BBC World News in the region but is looking to bring other brands to the Arab world, said Ian McDonough, the senior vice president and general manager of BBC Worldwide Channels. "We are looking at the opportunity to bring new brands, new genres to the Middle East." Talks are at an early stage, and he would not say which broadcasters were involved.

The BBC has an agreement with the Dubai pay-TV network OSN to broadcast several of its channels across the region.

bflanagan@thenational.ae