x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hollywood puts UAE in the spotlight

Television producers in the UAE may soon have their work to be picked up in the US market.

Everyone loves the UAE: Ellen Sandler, the writer and executive producer of 'Everyone Loves Raymond' (above) is holding a workshop in Dubai.
Everyone loves the UAE: Ellen Sandler, the writer and executive producer of 'Everyone Loves Raymond' (above) is holding a workshop in Dubai.

The UAE television industry has been challenged to come up with the next big sitcom show in America to rival foreign-inspired Ugly Betty and The Office. According to Ellen Sandler, the writer and executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond, US television is looking outside its own talent pool for a hit series to rival the South American inspired Ugly Betty and the British-conceived The Office.

To help the Emirates' television industry capitalise on these opportunities, Ms Sandler, will hold a workshop on the structure and selling of Hollywood-style sitcoms this week at the fourth-annual Media and Marketing Show (MMS), which begins today in Dubai. Her two-day course, organised by the film and media education initiative Hollywood in Dubai, is part of an increased focus on education and training at the conference.

"It's a very important time in our industry for foreign television - foreign to us," she said. "Your local television becomes important to Hollywood because the studios are looking more and more to outside providers. They like to pick up something that's already done and bring it over and put it on. This is a cost-effective way to find new programming, and it is becoming prevalent. The writers' strike last year added to the urgency of that, and this year on network television we have at least six shows that I can count immediately that began as shows on foreign television networks and that Hollywood then adapted and put on American television."

Ms Sandler's workshop also adds a touch of Hollywood sparkle to a conference that boasts a 30 per cent increase in exhibition space since last year. The three-day conference, which ends on Wednesday and is being held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, will host more than 200 exhibitors from 55 countries. Highlights include a presentation from Google on how to understand the full capacities of online advertising, tips from Al Manar TV on how to navigate the flow of information "between freedom and governing rules", and talks from some of the biggest names in the region's advertising and media industries. Topping this list will be Joseph Ghossoub, the president of the International Advertising Association and founder of The Holding Group, who will give the opening speech.

The first day's list of speakers, hosted by ITP, also include Simon Francis, the chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi for Europe, the Middle East and Africa; Elie Khouri, the managing director of the Omnicom Media Group; Martin Newland, the editor-in-chief of The National; Piers Morgan, the former editor of London's Daily Mirror and a judge on the reality show America's Got Talent; and Tom Bower, the author of best-selling books on Richard Branson, Mohammed al Fayed and Conrad Black.

The conference will also host the launch of Sajay TV, which will serve the UAE and Kuwait and focus on traditional entertainment programming, according to Maysoon Abulhoul, the managing director of the Domus Group, the organiser of the MMS. It will begin broadcasting free-to-air in January, she said. Well-established members of the media industry, such as the satellite operator Arabsat, will also attend as will the research group Ipsos, which will host a presentation on television people meters. The final day will also feature a talk on the introduction of international media into the region, given by The Sunday Times. "The communications industry in Dubai and the UAE at large is serving as a model for the rest of the region," said Abdullah Abulhoul, the chief executive of the Domus Group. "The Media and Marketing Show is an initiative in the direction of providing a boost to this particular sector, as well as providing a forum for communications professionals from across the region." khagey@thenational.ae