x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Twofour54 signs deal with Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera has signed a deal with twofour54 to air a new Arabic children's TV show.

Al Jazeera has signed a deal with the Abu Dhabi media zone twofour54 to air a new Arabic children's TV show across the Arabic-speaking world and in parts of Europe. 

The Qatari broadcaster has acquired the rights for Captain Karim Qitar Al Hekayat, an Arabic version of the children's TV series Driver Dan's Story Train, for which twofour54 owns the intellectual property (IP) rights.

Under the deal with twofour54, Captain Karim will air on Baraem TV, Al Jazeera's channel for pre-school children, from the beginning of next year. 

Baraem broadcasts 17 hours a day and is free to view on the Arabsat, Nilesat and Hotbird satellite operators, which reach all Arab countries and most parts of Europe. 

Captain Karim has been in production for much of this year and is being produced by twofour54 partners using studio infrastructure in Abu Dhabi.

Wayne Borg, the chief operating officer at twofour54, said the rights were sold to Al Jazeera rather than another Middle East media networkfor "purely commercial" reasons. 

He said this was in line with the centre's mandate to develop a "dynamic" media industry. "I want to stimulate competition and demand … and that's part of our role, to create a competitive, dynamic marketplace," said Mr Borg. 

He declined to specify the value of the deal with Al Jazeera.

The Arabic show is being produced by the animation company Blink Studios, which has a production facility at twofour54. The 52 episodes, each about 11 minutes long, will have both animated scenes and live action sequences featuring local children auditioned with the help of UAE schools. 

A Captain Karim website will launch next month, followed by home entertainment and consumer products next year. Abu Dhabi's twofour54 said it was in negotiations over a book publishing programme, following a similar deal for the English-language version with Macmillan Children's Books in the UK.

Mr Borg said the new Arabic show illustrated how twofour54 could act as a "catalyst" for content creation and employ the skills of its members. 

"This is the first complete example of identifying an IP and seeing it through the complete value chain. This is a great example of where all the elements come together," he said. 

"This really brings together all aspects of what twofour54 is about - creating quality Arabic content produced in the region, for the region."

The UK's CBeebies channel, which is operated by the BBC, has commissioned a second series of the English-language Driver Dan's Story Train through a deal with twofour54 and its production partner 3Line Media. 

Local rights to the show were previously sold to Kids Sprout, a US children's television channel, and ABC Television in Australia. Mr Borg said twofour54's intention was "to continue that sales process to as many markets as possible".

He said there were "a number of other projects we're working on now". These include a more contemporary take on Freej, the popular Arabic cartoon. 

"Gaming is another big sector … We're close to finalising a deal in that space as well," he said. 

bflanagan@thenational.ae