London, Asharq Al-Awsat- MTV Arabia, the Middle East’s first Arabic free-to-air youth entertainment and lifestyle channel, is set to launch November 17, reaching a potential audience of over 190 million across the region.
26 years after the debut of the original MTV; the time is right for the channel’s Arabic version to take flight according to Abdullatif al Sayegh, CEO of Arab Media Group, MTV Networks International local partner, “The Middle East is booming now, and with 60 per cent of its population under 25, it was time to launch. MTV Networks was looking for the right local partner, and Arab Media Group (AMG) had developed to the point that it could support the demands of launching a major international network across the Middle East. We also understand the market—not only what is out there, but what is missing. What is missing is currently quality lifestyle entertainment for young people.”
However MTV Arabia will be entering a saturated television entertainment market, with over 50 Arabic music video channels, competing for the lucrative youth demographic, a fact recognized by MTV. Patrick Samaha, General Manager of MTV Arabia told Asharq Al Awsat, “MTV Arabia is more than a music video channel; it is a youth lifestyle channel. We will have programming devoted to sports, culture and humor as well. As such, we see ourselves as complimentary to the other offerings in the Middle East, while presenting world-class production values and some of the best contemporary international artists.”
Regarding whether the region’s cultural and social sensitivities were taken into consideration during the channel’s planning stages, Samaha told Asharq Al-Awsat, “We have no intention of offending anyone, and MTV Arabia will not violate any of the norms and sensitivities of this region. There are already MTV stations in countries with majority Muslim populations, such as Pakistan and Indonesia, where they broadcast a call to prayer on the channel five times a day.
Furthermore, leaders in the Middle East understand the need for youth—60% of the population—to express themselves, to learn about youth from other regions, and to feel a part of international youth culture. That is why Prince Khaled Al Faisal of Mecca gave his approval for the station when Abdullatif al Sayegh [CEO of Arab Media Group] and Bill Roedy [Vice Chairman of MTV Networks] visited him in July.” he added.
The channel will also include exclusive original programming; including the flagship show Hip Hop Na, a twelve-episode series which follows auditions to uncover the best local hip hop acts in seven different Middle Eastern cities. One winner from each city will have the chance to record a track which will feature on a Hip Hop Na compilation CD, produced by hosts Don Legend of KSA’s Jeddah Legends and Fred Wreck, an acclaimed producer who has worked with some of the biggest hip hop performers in the music industry, including 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg.
The channel will also air subtitled imported hits like “Pimp My Ride,” “Punk’d” and “Total Request Live.” There already are Arabic versions of popular shows like “MADE” (al Helm) and “Boiling Point” (Akher Takka).
MTV Arabia and will be carried on satellite broadcasters Nilesat 14 and Arabsat 24.