x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

OSN rolling out mobile service and Yahala! channel

OSN announces a new channel called Yahala!, along with its first original show in Arabic and a upcoming digital platform for tablet and smartphone users.

David Butorac, left, said 'we will expand the OSN experience across multiple platforms.' Pawan Singh / The National
David Butorac, left, said 'we will expand the OSN experience across multiple platforms.' Pawan Singh / The National

Television viewers should soon be able to watch their favourite OSN shows via the internet on tablet computers or smartphones as the broadcaster plans to launch a digital service.

David Butorac, the chief executive of the Orbit Showtime Network, said the digital platform, which has a provisional title of My OSN, would be launched at the end of this year or early next year.

"You'd be able to catch up with your favourite series online. It's a big step forward," said Mr Butorac. "We will expand the OSN experience to be across multiple platforms - so not just the broadcast platform that there is today, but also across tablets, smartphones and [online]."

Viewers will be able to catch up on programmes they missed at initial broadcast, and a few channels may be streamed directly.

OSN currently broadcasts via satellite and cable networks owned by telecommunications companies such as Etisalat and du.

Digital distribution on internet browsers and mobile devices would mark a new revenue stream for the broadcaster, although pricing plans had yet to be finalised, Mr Butorac said.

"For existing subscribers, it will be a value-added service that will come at low or no cost," he said. "But non-subscribers would have to pay an entry fee."

Mr Butorac, who joined OSN late last year, said the rate of new subscriptions had tripled this year from last year, a trend he attributed to a clampdown on piracy and an investment in new shows.

"It's a huge jump," he said. "The business is just flying at the moment."

The TV network, based in Dubai, yesterday announced a new Arabic-language channel called OSN Yahala! HD, which it plans to launch on October 10.

Shows on the channel will be broadcast over satellite in the Middle East and parts of Africa, as well as via a "catch-up" service on an upcoming digital platform.

OSN has a total of 90 channels. Yahala - the name means "welcome" - will be broadcast in high-definition alongside OSN's 14 other Arabic-language channels, and include a mix of entertainment, drama and films.

"It is a genre and style of programming that we do not believe has been showcased in this market already," said Mr Butorac. "It will appeal to a fairly broad audience, but typically to a younger demographic."

Yahala will feature a new sitcom called Hindistani, which is the first original Arabic-language production to be commissioned and co-produced by OSN.

"It will be showcased on our airtime, and beyond that on to our digital-media platforms when they launch later in the year," said Mr Butorac.

Currently, all of the shows aired by OSN in Arabic - and most in English - are acquired from other media companies.

Mr Butorac said OSN plans to boost the amount of original content it produces.

"We see it as a growing phase of our business," he said. "We have to make certain that we make all of our channels relevant for our target audiences."

OSN also announced a new brand identity under the slogan "Just Imagine".

The company was formed in a merger of the Orbit and Showtime Arabia networks in 2009.

It is owned and operated by Panther Media Group (PMG), which is registered in the Dubai International Financial Centre.

PMG is owned by the Kuwaiti holding company Kipco and Orbit Group.

bflanagan@thenational.ae