x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai station raises local content

A change in focus to local production will produce a new schedule featuring a raft of local "infotainment" shows

Najla Al Awadhi, the general manager of Dubai One TV, says Dubai Media Incorporated is looking at building up its local content.
Najla Al Awadhi, the general manager of Dubai One TV, says Dubai Media Incorporated is looking at building up its local content.

Dubai One, the Dubai Government's English-language television station, is more than doubling its locally produced content in its new schedule to launch on October 11, the station announced yesterday. The investment in locally produced shows is part of the broadcaster's long-term strategy to become both a commercially viable player in the pan-Arab media landscape and a socially conscious source of local news and information, said Najla al Awadhi, the general manager of Dubai One, part of Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI).

"Entertainment is a luxury but information is a necessity, and that's why we are going down this road," she said. "Dubai needs a platform where it can grab eyeballs because it's good content, good television, but at the same time it has a purpose. It's 'infotainment'." The new locally produced shows being launched this season include: Emirati, a weekly cultural show about Emirati identity; Dubai 101, aimed at expatriates new to the emirate; 20 Something, an interactive programme aimed at Generation Y and Dubai Tonight, a half-hour talk show featuring local and global high-profile personalities.

She said the investment in local programming came during a tough year for the local television advertising market and so far the sponsorships for the new network were still being negotiated. However, DMI is looking at building up its local content as a long-term proposition. "It's a significant investment," she said. "Anybody who is coming from a TV background will tell you that you can have the prettiest presenter in the world and she can be smart, but if you don't have a good writer, it will be a boring show.

"Writing makes television in many ways and to find a good writer costs money. It's an investment. But because it is so strategic for us to go down that road, it is worth it, even if the shows do not make immediate money. We believe this is a long-term investment." The Ranya Show, an Oprah-like chat show focused on local social issues, was originally slated for launch this month, but had been delayed due to production issues and would launch before the end of the year, Ms al Awadhi said.

Ms al Awadhi said finding people whose case studies illuminated current social issues and who were willing to go on air presented special challenges for this region. "People are reluctant to go on television in our culture here and we are trying to break that," she said. "It takes time but once people begin to trust the channel and understand that media actually helps and empowers, that begins to change, slowly."

The four new shows join Out and About This Week, Emirates News and Bonds for Life to make up the channel's locally produced content. These are balanced by an array of exclusive first regional runs of western hits, including West Wing and Curb Your Enthusiasm. "We chose to create a balanced mix in our programming," Ms al Awadhi said. "The research shows movies are strong across the board. Since 2004, the number one viewed English-language content has been movies, so we will not ignore that trend. Now, what we will also do is produce."

Keeping a strong stable of western programming helps the channel to compete with its main rival, MBC, to which Dubai One is perennially number two in the region, she said. But at the same time, the new raft of local shows mean the channel will be more selective in its acquisitions going forward. "The volume of some of our studio deals will be diminished. However, we have a new mantra that we are going after quality, not quantity," she said.

"A lot of studios try to ram down your throat huge volume deals just to get as much money as they can, but we are going to be very selective in what we purchase because now we have programmes to replace those. Before, we didn't." khagey@thenational.ae