Quest Arabiya, the Middle East’s newest TV channel, is now broadcasting, with a mission to create and deliver original content from and for the region.
Available in 45 million homes in 22 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, the channel — the result of a partnership between Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Discovery Networks — launched on Monday.
It will feature content focusing on the key genres of extreme outdoor activities, turbo, engineering, nature and wildlife, science and space, and people and places to regional screens.
While it will feature content from Discovery and its international channel Quest’s extensive back catalogue, the Quest Arabiya team stress that they will not simply be regurgitating content from overseas. The aim is to create a wealth of original and adapted content specifically tailored for the region.
The team has already adapted some of Quest's most popular shows — including Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush and Bear Grylls' Man Vs Wild — for the local audience, through with dubbing and the addition of Arabic graphics.
In addition, Quest Arabiya will produce and commission unique content that will be developed, produced and filmed in the region.
The first locally made show, provisionally titled Arabiya X, is in production and will follow presenters across the Middle East and North Africa region as they experience the most extreme sports, including deepwater soloing in Oman, white-water rafting in Morocco and snow paragliding in Lebanon.
A series of locally-produced short-films have also been made, and will run from launch this week. The shorts, called Hakawi, will run regularly as profiles reflecting the passions and interests of the people in the region. The subjects include a Jordanian pigeon keeper, an Egyptian parkour team and a female bodybuilder in Bahrain.
“The launch of the channel is very much in line with Image Nation’s commitment to supporting the regional media industry, providing opportunities for regional production companies to generate content and showcase regional talent,” says Image Nation chairman Mohamed Al Mubarak.
One of the greatest signs of Quest Arabiya’s commitment to the local audience is its Quest for Talent initiative, which was an open call on social media for aspiring presenters to submit a short video and potentially become stars of the new channel.
“We want to create fresh new content that’s relevant to the viewer, so what better way than to do a call-out?” says Quest Arabiya general manager Carl von Doussa.
“We wanted to use social media to address younger audiences, and were looking for people with a passion that wanted to be in media, though they didn’t have to be there already. What’s important is that you can teach people media, but you can’t teach them passion.
“We were amazed with the response. On the first day we got more than 150 applicants, and more than 1,000 in the two-week period. We’re very excited with the talent we’ve got with our 13 successful applicants.”
Initially, the successful “Questers” will supplement existing programming by providing “infobites” — 40 second slots of information about the region in between the regular programming. This, says von Doussa, will give extra regional relevance to the programming. In the longer term, though, he says their roles could grow.
“They’ve all performed really well,” he says. “And now we can see we have a pool of talented people we can call on when we do more original content. They can potentially be the future faces of our regional long-form programming.
“I’ll feel that I have succeeded if, in three or four years time, some of this talent has become the face of the channel — but we’ll still be looking for fresh talent every year that we operate.”
• Quest Arabiya is available now on: du: Ch 390, E-life: 352, Arabsat Badr-4: 11,938MHz, Nilesat 201: 11,785MHz
The Quest is over
We got the low down on what the experience of working with the new channel is like from some of the presenters chosen by the Quest for Talent programme.
Fatima Al Harthi
Graduate manager for Etihad Airways
“This is a great opportunity for me to enhance my communication and presentation skills and, as a result, I hope to have a successful career within the media industry. Through the guidance and support I have received from the Quest for Talent initiative, I hope to become a professional Emirati TV presenter. I intend to practice my presentation skills until it becomes second nature, and work hard to become well-known within the media industry.”
Abdullah Al Qassab
“I was referred to the Quest for Talent competition by a friend. At first I thought it was an Abu Dhabi-based TV show. Then, when I was contacted by a member of the Quest Arabiya team, it was clear to me that this is not a regular TV channel. This one aims to speak to bright, inquisitive minds and bring something new to the Middle East. In future, I want to write and produce TV shows such as Cosmos and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. In order to do that, I focus on scriptwriting in my free time. Hopefully, with the guidance and support I will receive from Quest Arabiya, I will improve.”
“I saw this as a great opportunity for young, inexperienced people to get involved in the media industry. I was very excited at the thought of being professionally trained in TV presenting and I hope it will increase my chances of going on to host some of Quest Arabiya’s flagship shows. I would love to continue a career in the media industry. Presenting is my passion and I believe with the help and support from the Quest for Talent programme I can go far in this profession.”
“In the future, I hope to get a job with Image Nation. I liked their atmosphere very much and respect their ideas and vision of developing the film and television industry in the region. After I have gained more experience, I hope to produce and present my own shows.”