x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! to be produced in Middle East

Arabic-language versions of two of the world's most iconic TV game shows are to be made in the region in the coming months.

Above, Vanna White, the co-host of the American edition of Wheel of Fortune. The show will be on air in the region by the end of December or early next year, says Ziad Kebbi, the president of SPT Arabia. AP Photo.
Above, Vanna White, the co-host of the American edition of Wheel of Fortune. The show will be on air in the region by the end of December or early next year, says Ziad Kebbi, the president of SPT Arabia. AP Photo.

Arab broadcasters aim to give two of the world's best-known television game shows a twist.

New versions of the popular US shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! areset to be produced in the region.

Sony Pictures Television (SPT) said yesterday it would start producing Arabic-language versions of the shows this year. Rights to the shows are owned by CBS.

SPT Arabia, an arm of the US media giant based in Dubai, said it would produce 240 half-hour episodes of Wheel of Fortune for Hayat TV in Egypt, to be shot in Cairo.

In addition, 20 one-hour episodes of Jeopardy! are to be produced in Lebanon for broadcast on MBC1, the region's biggest channel by audience size.

"Jeopardy! will be on air in November, and Wheel of Fortune will be on air by the end of December or early next year," said Ziad Kebbi, the president of SPT Arabia.

SPT Arabia has previously made an Arabic-language version of the US comedy series Everybody Loves Raymond in the Middle East, which Mr Kebbi said was returning for a second season.

"The reason why formats travel well around the world is because you already have a wealth of experience when you bring the format to a region," he said.

Other international television formats the company plans to bring to the Arab world include a "very big talent show" and an "English-language reality show", said Mr Kebbi, who declined to give further details.

He said SPT Arabia was also developing Arabic television formats, which he hoped would be sold to the rest of the world.

International television franchises are big business in the Middle East.

The broadcaster MBC, which is based in Dubai, produces Arab Idol and Arabs Got Talent under licence from the rights owner FremantleMedia Enterprises.

SPT also owns the rights to the UK's Who Wants to be a Millionaire, another of its franchises that has been regionalised for broadcast in the Middle East.

Not all genres of television work well in other markets, said Khulud Abu Homos, the senior vice president of programming and creative services at the pay-TV network OSN.

Ms Homos said she had once considered adapting the comedy show Saturday Night Live for the Arab world.

"I tried, and it was totally not funny," she said.

"When it comes to comedy … it has to be local, it has to be original."

However, Ms Homos said OSN, which is also based in Dubai, was "evaluating" international franchises.

"We survey the formats. We have a few in mind," she said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae