x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

MBC tunes in with plan to give voice to star-gazing hopefuls

MBC hopes to give a new generation of wannabe stars a voice, having acquired the regional rights to a TV talent show.

MBC hopes to give a new generation of wannabe stars a voice, having acquired the regional rights to a TV talent show.

The broadcaster, based in Dubai, said yesterday it had signed a three-year deal to broadcast an Arabic version of The Voice across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

The show involves blind auditions, in which coaches hear contestants' voices but do not see them. The Voice is the third format of its kind to be acquired by MBC, which has already aired Arabs Got Talent and Arab Idol.

"The deal makes MBC the home of the top-rated global TV formats in the Mena region," said Mazen Hayek, the group director of PR and commercial at MBC.

MBC said a contract had been signed with Talpa Holding, based in the Netherlands, which owns the rights to the format, and Sony Pictures Television Arabia, which will co-produce the show.

The regional version of The Voice will feature local contestants, and be broadcast in Arabic.

International TV formats have proved popular among viewers in the UAE.

Arab Idol is the second-most watched programme in the UAE, according to Arab Media Outlook. An Arabic version of the game show Jeopardy ranks fourth among the most popular shows, the report found.

"Talent shows have positively affected the TV viewing habits, patterns and trends in the region," said Ali Jaber, the group TV director at MBC.

Commentators said the rights to international TV formats were costly but that they provided a proven recipe for success in luring audiences and advertisers.

"The Voice has succeeded - it's managed to grab a unique audience," said Ali Ajouz, a media consultant based in the UAE. "International formats are proven. If it fails outside the region, they don't try it here."

Mr Ajouz said acquiring the rights and producing a series of The Voice would cost MBC more than US$1 million (Dh3.6m).

"It's a huge cost," he said. "What gives MBC the advantage now is that they have all the formats. As long as they can afford it, it's great for them." He said one danger was that MBC viewers may tire of three talent shows all airing on the same network. But he said Arab Idol and Arabs Got Talent had fared well in the ratings.

"With too many similar shows, people may get bored with it," he said. "But I think the risk is worth taking in this case."

Nick Grande, the managing director of ChannelSculptor, a television consultancy in Dubai, said The Voice had scored well in the ratings of other markets.

"The Voice is yet another example of an extremely successful format that, in less than a year, is already available in 11 other countries," he said.

"It demonstrates that MBC recognises that blockbuster reality formats are the mainstay of free-to-air television around the world."

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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