Arab world prepares to become part of international TV network

Media Summit special: TV franchises such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Dragons' Den, Pyramid and The Dating Game could be coming to the Arab World soon.

More international television franchises are set to be launched in the Arab world, local media executives say.

Ziad Kebbi, the president of Sony Pictures Television Arabia, says Sony is in talks with Middle East broadcasters about launching more franchises.

2waytraffic, which is part of Sony Pictures Entertainment, owns the rights to shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Dragons' Den, Pyramid and The Dating Game.

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Mr Kebbi points to established shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which has already been Arabised by MBC.

"It was one of the transformational shows that put MBC on the map," he says.

Other franchised TV formats made locally in Arabic include Endemol's 1 vs 100 and Marriage Ref, both of which were made by Abu Dhabi TV, part of Abu Dhabi Media (ADM). ADM also owns and publishes The National.

International TV formats are also gaining popularity in the wider region.

Saad Mohseni, the chairman of Afghanistan's largest media company Moby Group, says the company is "working on a number of other formats with Endemol and others".

Moby Group has a deal with Endemol to make Deal or no Deal in Afghanistan for its popular Tolo TV station.

"It's been adapted slightly to suit Afghanistan," says Mr Mohseni. "Given it is an Islamic country, we always have to take into consideration religious and cultural sensitivities."

Nick Grande, the managing director of Channel Sculptor, a consultancy in Dubai, says international TV companies have two primary routes into the Arab market: selling channel brands or franchising international formats.

"If you are a content producer internationally, that's your major entry point into the Middle East market," says Mr Grande. "What's attractive to major broadcasters over here is the equity associated with existing successful formats.

"Across all of the developed markets you see formats being incredibly successful. And now you're seeing something similar in the emerging markets."

But as the TV industry in the Arab world matures, Mr Mohseni sees no reason why home-grown Arab formats may not be exported to the West.

"There's no reason for companies in the Middle East not to export formats elsewhere," he says. "I think it will be a two-way street."

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