YouTube to launch online Ramadan TV
With viewership of Arabic soaps and series set to soar during Ramadan, one US media giant is hoping people will tune in online, rather than on television.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, says it will today launch an online channel dedicated to Ramadan shows.
The video-sharing site has roped in Unilever as the main advertising sponsor for the channel, which it says will feature more than 50 "premium" shows.
"Millions of viewers around the world will be able to watch more than 50 premium Ramadan shows the same day they air on TV," the company said in a statement.
A preview of the shows is currently available at youtube.com/ramadan, with a launch of the full site expected later today.
Unilever is the main commercial sponsor of the site, through its brands Lipton and Knorr.
Internet users in the Middle East and North Africa watch an average of 167 million YouTube videos a day, ranking it the second highest region globally in terms of views.
It is the first time YouTube has aired a dedicated Ramadan channel, in what is the most important month of the year for the Arab TV industry.
The satellite-TV business derives a big chunk of its revenues during Ramadan, when audience numbers typically soar.
MBC, the Arab world's biggest broadcaster, said last year that its flagship channel MBC1 makes a quarter of its annual ad revenues during the holy month.
Advertising executives forecast a slight rise in spending on TV ads this year.
"It's looking quite healthy and quite strong," said Elie Khouri, the chief executive of Omnicom Media Group in the Middle East and North Africa.
"We're seeing the same momentum as last year in terms of investments. Typically Ramadan represents a big chunk of the annual calendar for clients."
Mr Khouri said TV advertising in the GCC and Egypt increased by 15 per cent in the first six months of 2012, compared to last year when confidence was shaken by the Arab Spring.
The increase in spending during the month of Ramadan is forecast to be more modest, Mr Khouri said.
"I think it should be up," he said. "Somewhere in the range of 5 to 7 per cent up versus last year would be quite reasonable."
Updated: July 19, 2012 04:00 AM