x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai.TV already a major concern

Sheeraz Hasan, a British Muslim entrepreneur, is to launch a local version of his celebrity website in the UAE.

Sheeraz Hasan, the CEO of Hollywood.TV outside the Raffles Hotel in Dubai. Mr Hasan is to launch a local version of his celebrity site.
Sheeraz Hasan, the CEO of Hollywood.TV outside the Raffles Hotel in Dubai. Mr Hasan is to launch a local version of his celebrity site.

It took Sheeraz Hasan, a 34-year-old British Muslim entrepreneur, less than a year to turn his celebrity newsgathering site, Hollywood.TV, into a billion-dollar company. When he takes it public in a few years time, he hopes to reap at least US$20 billion (Dh73.4bn). Now the energetic chief executive and author of The Muslim American Dream is in Dubai, confident that he will find the same success with a local version of his celebrity portal, to be called Dubai.TV.

"I've already been offered $100 million just to sell the domain name," said Mr Hasan. "So straight away, I already know that if groups are offering that much for a domain name, we're a billion-dollar company." It is a company that has not even broadcast its product yet, or settled on a location for its Dubai office. Its infrastructure, in terms of both equipment and human capital, would cost "at least double-digit millions of dollars", Mr Hasan said.

Dubai.TV will be launched in December as a weekly 30-minute entertainment show, a website and a syndicated service that will funnel video content from the UAE into the US market through Hollywood. TV's network of media partners, including CBS, Fox and NBC. Mr Hasan - who made The Independent newspaper's recent list of the top 20 "Brits who took over US prime time", along with the likes of the American Idol judge, Simon Cowell, and Ricky Gervais, of The Office - said he was still in negotiation with several Arab networks to broadcast the weekly English-language, Dubai-based show.

Unlike its sister company, Hollywood. TV, which supplies celebrity photographs and video to television outlets like E!, The Insider and Entertainment Tonight, Dubai. TV will cover social events in the UAE, from red-carpet movie premieres to the launches of property developments. Hollywood.TV, based in Los Angeles, was "star patrol 24/7", Mr Hasan said. By contrast, in the weekly Dubai instalment, "the entertainment is going to be the sizzle behind the show, but we want to cover and give opportunities to other events," he said, such as fashion shows and property ventures. Mr Hasan and Janeen Mansour, a reporter and producer with Hollywood. TV who will host the Dubai programme, were both confident that the US entertainment industry was interested enough in the UAE's social scene to pay for its footage.

"It's all the buzz in Hollywood. The minute they see the word 'Dubai', everybody wants to get here; they just don't know how to get here," said Ms Mansour. "We want to bridge that gap and start bringing stars here, to start bringing Dubai to Hollywood and the rest of the world." Like its Hollywood-branded counterpart, the business model for Dubai.TV relies on advertising and the licensing of its content. Mr Hasan said he was confident that his model would generate "millions and millions of dollars in advertising".

"We'll make money from day one. We've had a huge response from advertisers, both here and overseas," he said. "I've been walking around here with this Dubai.TV T-shirt and I've had more people coming up to me in the last seven days giving me a business card and saying 'what is this Dubai.TV, how do we get on it?'" Hydra Properties, the international property company based in Abu Dhabi, has already signed on to sponsor Dubai.TV's website for an undisclosed sum.

But is Dubai, and the UAE in general, ready for the Hollywood. TV treatment? Mr Hasan and Ms Mansour stressed that Dubai.TV would not be a paparazzi vehicle. "We're not going to be behind trees with cameras or going through people's rubbish," Ms Mansour said. Mr Hasan said that he was confident "the Government's going to be very happy with what we're doing". "We're promoting the city to billions of people and to the biggest stars in the world," he said. "At the end of the day, they're trying to promote it, too."

@Email:rabouzeid@thenational.ae