x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

National Geographic opens first free-to-air channel

This will be the first time the television wildlife producer broadcasts on an open channel anywhere in the world.

National Geographic Channel and Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) have teamed up to launch the world's first free-to-air version of the popular channel, the companies announced Wednesday. National Geographic Channel Abu Dhabi, which started broadcasting on July 1, is also the first in the region to be dubbed in Arabic. Other versions of the channel on the region's pay-TV operators are in English. "National Geographic Channel Abu Dhabi marks the first time that National Geographic Channel has been broadcast on a free-to-air basis anywhere in the world," said Ward Platt, the president for Asia Pacific and the Middle East of National Geographic Channels International. "In all other markets in the world, the viewer must pay a subscription to receive the 24-hour National Geographic Channel, but due to the unique nature of the market and the shared vision of Abu Dhabi Media Company and National Geographic Channel, we are able to provide the channel on a non-subscription basis in the region, where the channel revenues will be derived solely from advertising." The channel will feature some locally produced content, in addition to global programmes such as Nat Geo Science, Wildlife, Dangerous Encounters and Disastertainment. It is available at Arabsat Badr 6 and Nilesat N102. ADMC plans to eventually roll out a version of the channel in high definition, said Karim Sarkis, the executive director of broadcast for ADMC. The channel builds on ADMC's existing relationship with the National Geographic Society through the partnership of its film fund, Imagenation Abu Dhabi, with National Geographic Films. National Geographic Channels International is a joint venture between the non-profit National Geographic Society and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, the major shareholder. "Abu Dhabi's attraction to the channel is linked to our future," said Edward Borgerding, the chief executive of ADMC, which owns The National. "Our children's future and our grandchildren's future depends on a seismic shift in our attitudes toward our planet. This is integral to the National Geographic brand and also integral to the Abu Dhabi and UAE agenda." Beyond brand, the commercial logic of the venture lies within the advertiser-pleasing demographic profile of the average National Geographic Channel viewer, said Mr Platt. "In many markets around the world, the viewership of National Geographic Channel competes very effectively against entertainment-type programming, sports or many other genres," he said. "Particularly, the audience tends to be of a higher education level and higher income level, and also be more aspirational in general. Even if they are in the middle-income level, they tend to have aspiration. So it's certainly a very desirable target audience." khagey@thenational.ae