Music video and entertainment service Vevo is in talks over digital distribution rights with Arab record labels such as Rotana.
Vevo to tune into Mena region
The digital music-video service Vevo plans to launch in the Mena region by the end of June, and is in discussions with Arab record labels over licensing deals.
Vevo, which was launched in December 2009, is a joint venture between Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also owns and publishes The National.
It offers more than 25,000 music tracks as well as other video entertainment, but is currently restricted to users in the US and Canada, where it has reached 60 million unique visitors a month.
The service will soon launch in the UK, followed by the Mena region by the end of the second quarter, said Rio Caraeff, the company's chief executive.
"We're trying to launch as soon as possible later this year," said Mr Caraeff. "I think the middle of the year, within the late [second-quarter] time frame, is probably … realistic."
The service will be active across many of the Mena countries. "Our plan is to go as broad as possible, to hit as much of the region as possible from day one," said Mr Caraeff.
In the North American market, Vevo attracts 60 million unique users a month. The service is available via the web, as well as on platforms such as iPhone, iPad and Google TV.
"Our plan this year is to bring Vevo to as many countries as possible, and as many platforms as possible. And so international expansion is our key priority right now," said Mr Caraeff. He said negotiations were under way to secure the rights for Arabic music-video content, in a bid to make the product more relevant to its user base in the Mena region.
The site already has the global rights to music videos from Universal, Sony and EMI - but Mr Caraeff said Vevo was also in talks with Rotana, which owns the world's largest back catalogue of Arab music and film.
"For any of our international launches, you need to have local programming, local marketing, local events, local brand advertising and local repertoire. And so we're working with Rotana and other providers," he said.
Mr Caraeff said Vevo would "accrue" royalties on behalf of individual music rights holders if it was not immediately able to formalise rights deals with them. "We're owned by the world's largest music companies; we believe it's fair to pay people who create music," he said.
Aside from music videos, Vevo also produces its own content, which it eventually plans to do in the Mena market. "In North America in the last year we've produced over 100 episodes of original programming and over 25 live events," said Mr Caraeff.
"[The] intention is to get into local programming, local events, local marketing."
Vevo's revenues are derived from advertising, and the company said it would be launching an ad sales operation in the UAE. Mr Caraeff said although the Mena market was relatively small, there was opportunity for growth.
Hussain "Spek" Yoosuf, the managing director of Fairwood Music Arabia, which represents the publishing rights of Universal Music Publishing and EMI Music Publishing in the UAE, said the launch of Vevo could boost the online ad market.
"The fact that they're coming to the Middle East is exciting, when you consider the fact that we still don't even have iTunes in the Middle East yet," said Mr Yoosuf. "There's still a lack of legitimate digital services in the region, but that's developing. And I think Vevo will pave the way to that growth."