Posts Tagged ‘television’

Fox’s cunning plans

In Advertising, Communicate, Digital, Interview, Journalism, Marketing, Media, Published journalism, Television on November 24, 2010 at 7:47 pm

David Haslingden, Fox International Channel’s president and CEO, tells Communicate about his network’s ambition for the region

Originally published in Communicate, May 2010

In March, broadcast company Fox International Channels (FIC) announced a tie-up with Abu Dhabi media hub twofour54 on three projects (see regional news, Communicate, April 2010). As well as moving operations for some of its locally targeted satellite channels from Hong Kong to the UAE, the News Corporation subsidiary is opening a Middle East headquarters for its online advertising business Dot Fox, and a branch of its NHNZ production house, both in twofour54.

President and CEO of FIC David Haslingden was in town for the recent Abu Dhabi Media Summit, and Communicate sat down with him to find out more about the new initiatives, FIC’s new-found love for the UAE capital, and the network’s wider plans for the region. Read the rest of this entry »


Iran’s user generation

In Communicate, Journalism, Published journalism, Q&A, Television on November 24, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Former head of BBC Persian Rob Beynon tells Communicate that social networks may have been pivotal in the Iranian elections, but they don’t mean news is dead

Originally published in Communicate, February 2010

Rob Beynon is CEO of DMA Media, the consultancy firm that helped Abu Dhabi Media Company set up twofour54, its media hub. DMA was also involved in launching the BBC’s Arabic and Farsi television services, and in June 2009 Beynon was the acting head of BBC Persian as the Iranian election result sparked mass protests, rioting and outbreaks of violence.
Communicate sat down with Beynon to ask him about the role user-generated content played in the channel’s coverage of events. Read the rest of this entry »

Production values

In Communicate, Opinion, Published journalism, Television on November 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Abu Dhabi’s new studio complex doesn’t need to be No. 1 – as long as it works properly

Originally published in Communicate, November 2009

At the end of September, Abu Dhabi’s media hub twofour54 launched its production, post-production and broadcast facilities. Collectively, they are called intaj (that’s Arabic for “production”).

The new facilities are based around five studios, ranging from 60 square meters to just over 600 square meters. Giant doors (“You can literally get an elephant through those,” says a spokesman) lead to studios decked out for filming in high definition (HD), a technology tipped to become the industry’s new standard. Read the rest of this entry »

Production pragmatism

In Advertising, Communicate, Dubai, Marketing, Published journalism, Television on November 23, 2010 at 10:34 am

It’s an unlikely deviation from the usual plot, but Dubai Studio City is trying to give the industry what it requires, rather than telling it what it wants

Originally published in Communicate, February 2008

During the Dubai International Film Festival in December, Dubai Studio City (DSC) announced full occupancy of its 18 boutique studios. The project’s aim of bringing production to Dubai, it seems, is being achieved.

Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, executive director of media at Tecom Investments, the parent company of Dubai’s free zones, says there are four main reasons to attract the film and production industry to the emirate: tourism, the economic benefits of having a big budget industry in town, “building the knowledge economy,” and the creation of jobs. Read the rest of this entry »

Cash for Tash

In Advertising, Communicate, Dubai, Published journalism, Television on November 22, 2010 at 11:15 pm

In the crowded Ramadan TV market, sponsorship can cut through the clutter

Originally published in Communicate, October 2007

As the barrage of 30-second spots battering Arab eyes builds up during Ramadan, canny advertisers are turning to sponsorship as a way to penetrate the barricade.

“The main arsenal of an advertiser remains a 30-second slot,” says Mazen Hayek, group director of marketing, PR and commercial at MBC, the Arab world’s leading broadcasting group. “Having said that, sponsorships are becoming increasingly important, and we have around 40 sponsors on our grid during Ramadan.”

Media agency Starcom Mediavest Group started Ramadan sponsorship with brands like Masterfoods’ Galaxy Jewels back in 2000. Buying packages that include TVCs, “brought to you” credits, mention in trailers, logo shots going in and out of breaks and more, Jewels has positioned itself as a seasonal staple and a standard gift to offer hospitable family, friends and neighbors.

“Ramadan is the month of giving, when you visit lots of people,” says Alex Saber, Starcom’s group commercial director in the region. “And when you visit people you have to take something with you.”

Television viewership more than doubles during Ramadan. “And it’s a concentrated viewership,” says Saber. “At 6 p.m. you have to be at home, behind the dinner table, with the TV on, whether you’re watching it or not. … TV is part of the culture.” After breaking their fast, people rest and pray. Then the visiting begins. “After 10 p.m. people visit each other. And they keep eating and snacking with the TV on,” says Saber.

This year, while food and beverage brands are still hungry for airtime, telecom advertisers are also saturating screens, according to Saber. “STC [Saudi Telecom Company] has been sponsoring Tash ma Tash for the last two or three years,” he says, referring to MBC’s long-running smash-hit Ramadan comedy starring Abdullah Al Sadan and Nasser Al Qasbi. “And the way sponsorship agreements happen, next Ramadan STC will have the first right of refusal.” Tash ma Tash, which has been running for 15 years, always directly after iftar, commands in excess of 50 percent audience share.

Historically, Arab broadcasters have kept Ramadan programming under their hats until the last minute, releasing details of their shows as late as the week before. But last year, spurred by heavy competition in the pan-Arab market, major stations began releasing their synopses eight weeks earlier. This year, says Saber, information started coming out in late June.

Last year, Lebanon’s LBC tried to make a dent in MBC’s dominance, going head to head with a competing version of Tash ma Tash, made by the man who directed the show’s first series. LBC’s “original” Tash ma Tash flopped. “Ramadan last year was a first experience for us,” says Sana Iskandar, LBC’s media relations manager. “This year we were more prepared and we were able to release the grid to advertisers much sooner, several months in advance, as soon as we had decided on the programming.”

This year LBC is pinning its hopes on another fake ’tache: the one worn by a Saudi woman forced to impersonate a male taxi driver in the comedy Aamsha Bint Aamash. It might not come close to MBC’s ratings, but it offers a cheaper alternative for potential sponsors looking for an ally and a captive audience.

Nothing but static

In Communicate, Journalism, Published journalism, Television on November 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Mohamed Alayyan invested millions into ATV, Jordan’s first private TV station. Why, after years of delay, was it shut down on the very day of its planned launch?

Originally published in Communicate, October 2007

It was supposed to be a signal of the long-awaited liberalization of media in Jordan. But ATV isn’t broadcasting any Ramadan specials this year. In fact, as this magazine went to press two years after the station’s planned debut, ATV still hadn’t broadcast anything.

Jordan’s long-awaited first private TV station, ATV will miss regional broadcasting’s most profitable month due to a government shutdown on the day it was due to launch, sparked by wrangling over licensing, paperwork and debt.

Now Amman’s media scene is awash with rumors and speculation over the reasons for the delay and the fate of a station that was originally supposed to launch in late 2005.

The station’s frustrated owner, Mohamed Alayyan, says his losses are hurting him and he is ready to sell. “I cannot take this any more, this damage,” says Alayyan, a 33-year-old entrepreneur who broke ground by publishing Jordan’s first private daily, Al Ghad. “I am bleeding badly.”

Although he says rumors about the government buying ATV are unfounded, Alayyan says, “If I have a good buyer at a good price I will sell it definitely. … Right now several big investors have contacted me – I’d rather keep their names till the deal is done – and hopefully they will be able to launch it.”

Mohanned Khatib, managing director of ATV, is a former anchorman at Al Arabiya who was hired by Alayyan to head up the new station. After telling Communicate in 2006 that the station was expecting to launch “sometime around the end of the year” – last year, that is – Khatib says he is now dealing with bureaucrats who offer nothing but “excuses” when it comes to the station’s aborted launch.

“It was supposed to officially launch on Aug. 1,” says Khatib. “However, we were delayed by the Audio-Visual Commission [AVC], which regulates all TV and radio stations in Jordan. And we received several letters from them. Some excuses – I would say invalid excuses – but we have to abide by the rules.”

Speaking of the two-year delay, Khatib says, “Most of it started with the technical issues – licensing and frequencies and all that. But then it developed further, going into our content and other things,” adding that the regulator has begun demanding paperwork ATV had already submitted “several times.”

It’s enough to make one suspect that politics, and an official antipathy toward private broadcasters, are behind the delay. Alayyan refuses to be drawn into speculation about a political motive, but says the station’s novelty plays a part.

“I think [the problems] are because we are new, and this has never happened before,” he says. “But this is a huge step backwards for independent media.”

Hussain Banihani, general director of the government’s AVC, tells Communicate the regulator is blocking the satellite broadcast due to Alayyan’s unpaid debts.

ATV owes money to state-owned Jordan TV according to a deal whereby the new station was to take over frequencies and infrastructure for its terrestrial broadcast, and to another government body, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), for the right to use those terrestrial frequencies. Yet the ATV terrestrial broadcast never got off the ground due to various technical issues.

“They have money to pay to Jordan TV and to the TRC here in Jordan for the frequencies and so on,” says Banihani. “Let them pay the money and they will be on air right now.”

Alayyan admits he has yet to hand over the money, which amounts to 3.5 million Jordanian dinars ($4.9 million), but says this should not be the concern of the AVC, which is supposed to regulate only the satellite broadcast. “Just because [the AVC] is the government doesn’t mean they have the right to collect [the money],” says Alayyan. “That’s a different contract. We are not disputing the issue of the terrestrial. There’re lots of technical issues with regard to the terrestrial that need ironing out.”
“We signed the contract with Jordan TV but never took the service,” he adds. “We never aired anything [and] they never took down their channel for us to use, and yet they started counting on us for money.”

In fact, Alayyan claims Jordan TV never paid for those terrestrial frequencies either, and he is hesitant about paying up in case ATV gets lumbered with Jordan TV’s existing debt. “When you buy a car, you don’t want to buy one with any debts, do you?” he asks.

One thing is certain: ATV won’t be seeing much return on its investment in programming for Ramadan this year. For the peak season, Khatib says the station had invested around 2.5 million Jordanian dinars ($3.5 million) in content.

The absence from the airwaves during Ramadan has cost the company dearly. “We had prepared a very expensive grid especially for Ramadan. … The premiums for Ramadan are very high, and you can buy this stuff for maybe a quarter of the price after Ramadan. It was a major disaster for us,” says Khatib.

As well as looking forward to a new avenue for advertisers during the holy month, media buyers were anticipating the new lease of life ATV would give to Jordan’s stagnant television scene.

Media planners have long said a private local TV station would fill an important gap in the country’s media market, especially for local advertisers keen to reach a Jordanian audience without having to resort to pricey pan-Arab satellite broadcasters or print media.

“We were all eagerly waiting for ATV,” says Jöelle Jammal, managing director of ad agency Promoseven Jordan. “It will push Jordan TV to make some changes and some refurbishment to the whole operation,” she says, adding ATV’s proposed grid was a big change from the dominant state-owned broadcaster’s more staid slate of programs.

What could have been a breath of fresh air has brought an odor of disappointment to the noses of Jordan’s media. “I think the whole thing is unfortunate,” Khatib says. “I think it’s confusing to some, and I think it reflects badly on our country.”