x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

MBC opens mic for regional idols

Arab "Idol" is coming to the Middle East through a three-year deal signed by Dubai-based broadcaster MBC.

Haley Reinhart performs on American Idol.
Haley Reinhart performs on American Idol.

The Idol TV franchise that made stars of the US singers Kelly Clarkson and Fantasia Barrino is set for an Arabic version after a deal was signed with Dubai-based broadcaster MBC.

A pan-Arab Idol show will be made under a three-year agreement between MBC and the franchise owner FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME).

It is the latest spin-off of the popular Pop Idol format, in which unknown performers compete for a chance of musical stardom.

Local versions of the Idol format have been launched in 44 territories, including American Idol and versions for Australia, France and Russia.

Tim Riordan, the group TV director at MBC Group, said the Idol deal was signed a week ago, and the show "will hopefully air later this year", probably in the fourth quarter.

The name of the Arabic-language version has not yet been decided, Mr Riordan said.

Under the terms of the deal, MBC has also extended the rights for Arabs Got Talent, another FME franchise, for an additional two seasons. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

Episodes of Arabs Got Talent, which made its debut on MBC4 in January, attracted up to one third of the total Arab TV audiences. The final of the first season is broadcast live tonight from Beirut.

Franchised shows such as Idol have the potential to "revolutionise the viewership trends in the Pan-Arab region", Mr Riordan said.

Jamie Lynn, the regional senior vice president of distribution at FME, said the company was "thrilled to be working closely with MBC Group to introduce Idols to the Middle East".

"Arabs Got Talent has already proven very popular with MBC viewers and we are confident that the Idols format will also establish itself as a must-watch TV title for them."

Nick Grande, the managing director of Channel Sculptor, a television consultancy in Dubai, said the Idol format was likely to appeal to advertisers.

"It's a really well-known format internationally," Mr Grande said. "Any programme that had a track record of producing audiences is going to resonate with advertisers."

The deal marks the latest of several international TV formats to launch in the Middle East. Other international formats that have been made in Arabic include Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which was also broadcast by MBC.

Ziad Kebbi, the president of Sony Pictures Television Arabia, said Sony was in talks with Middle East broadcasters about launching more TV formats in the market.

"We're in discussions with all the channels," Mr Kebbi said. "The trend of the established channels looking to replicate international successes is going to continue."

He said Sony was pushing a show called Impossible?, which is billed as "the world's first ever magic-based game show".

bflanagan@thenational.ae