Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

MTV Eyes Middle East Market - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- With Many in the Middle East crying out “We want our MTV” , It seems their wish is about to come true as plans are underway to launch “MTV Arabia” with in the next two years, according to the international music network.

MTV is “very interested in the [Arab satellite channel] market and realizes how important it is,” Dean Possenniskie, the network’s Vice President and General Manager for Emerging Markets, told Asharq al Awsat. “Hopefully [we] will be in the market in the next 24 months” but “it all depends on finding the right local partners”, he added.

Posseniskie also promised MTV fans in the region “to bring something different to Rotana and Melody when MTV finally enters the market,” in reference to two popular Arabic music video channels.

MTV celebrated the 25th anniversary of its first US channel on 1 August, introducing “music videos” as a new art form and pioneering the concept of “music channel”. It has since grown to become the world’s largest television network and has been awarded the title of “world’s most valuable media brand” for the sixth year running, by Businessweek magazine and Interbrand.

It dizzying success had prompted many channels to follow its lead. MTV-like channels have become a worldwide phenomenon; a huge number of local and satellite channels now exclusively broadcast music videos and shows. Many are very popular across the Arab world.

While the Arab media was late in adopting the MTV concept, “fellow American and European [channels] were the first to follow in its footsteps. The first Arab music channels came as late as the mid-1990s”, said Simon Gauro, a producer at “Zen”, a Beirut-based Arab satellite music channel.

Gauro indicated that the Arab music industry has also been influenced by MTV. “Music channels changed the rules of promotion and marketing in the music business, as music clips have become a must and their airplay affects sales. The same applies to the Arab world.”

In recent years, the number of Arab music channels has greatly increased. Among the favorites are Rotana and Melody, both owned by large music production companies of the same name as the channels, as well as Mazzika, Music Plus and Nagham.

However, the majority of these channels depends heavily on the works of Arab artists and, in many cases, has signed exclusive deals with them to showcase their latest videos. International hit songs are aired according to a special agreement with production companies and other television networks. However, less popular channels, especially local ones, record the content of various other channels and then re-broadcast them as their own.

MTV Arabia will face a number of challenges, especially if it adopts the network’s famed mixed-content strategy, whereby it broadcasts both international and local video clips. Some of the biggest Arab music stars have also signed exclusivity deals with its rivals.

For his part, Gauro believes MTV Arabia will be a success as “Fans of western music across the Arab world will watch MTV.”