A Saudi-owned broadcaster is planning to launch a 24-hour Arabic-language TV drama channel this month.
MBC's Arabic drama channel set to be a hit with viewers
MBC Group's new Arabic-language TV drama channel will attract "millions" of viewers, says the Saudi-owned broadcaster.
The MBC Drama channel will start broadcasting on Saturday and air series from Egypt, GCC and the Levant.
"The launch of MBC Drama marks the 10th channel and the 20th anniversary of MBC Group," said Mazen Hayek, the official spokesman and group director of PR and commercial at the company.
"It's going to be a family-targeted channel. The channel will have new, exclusive first runs from the beginning. It will eventually reach millions [of viewers]."
Mr Hayek said content on the channel would be "based on co-production and some acquisition" of shows. "This is a real incentive for all drama producers. They have a platform to air and reach a greater market," he said.
The channel will enter the Arab world's crowded free-to-air TV broadcast sector, where more than 480 channels vie for the attention of viewers.
Estimates of the total advertising revenue in the Arab TV sector vary greatly. According to the analysts Arab Media Outlook, television revenues across the entire region stood at just US$1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) last year.
The Pan Arab Research Centre, however, estimates advertising revenues stood at $3bn in the first half of this year alone, although this figure does not take into account advertising space given for free or at discounted rates.
Elie Haber, the managing director of the media planning agency Mindshare in the UAE, said it was too early to say whether MBC Drama would prove popular with advertisers. "By February, they will know whether the channel is performing or not," said Mr Haber.
He said the cost of advertising on channels such as MBC Drama could rise next year because of the increasing cost of TV content in Arabic.
"The problem is that the cost of the series, the content, has doubled recently. That's because there is not enough inventory. This will have an impact on rates and prices next year," Mr Haber said.
Mr Hayek said shows exclusive to MBC Drama on its launch included the Turkish drama Jehan, the Mexican programme Al Hob Al Aseer and Rani Padmini from India - which are all dubbed in Arabic. Other drama titles include a Gulf series called Hetan Wa Zeeab and the Syrian drama Bab Al Hara 5.
Mr Haber said Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be key markets for MBC Drama. "I think it's going to be a success, especially the Turkish series, which are the talk of the town right now," he said.