The ladies of Wisteria Lane have returned to the Middle East, bringing with them a further advance of Rupert Murdoch's media empire into the region. Beginning with daily weekday broadcasts of the third season of Desperate Housewives, Mr Murdoch's Fox International Channels, in partnership with Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Rotana Media Services, launched the Fox Series channel in the Middle East last week.
The channel will be the region's first 24-hour, free-to-air service dedicated exclusively to Hollywood series. It is one of nearly 100 Fox Series channels in operation internationally in 29 languages. "In the last 10 years, the popularity of Hollywood TV series has gone up tremendously outside the United States," said Rohit D'Silva, the general manager of Fox International channels in the Middle East. "Fox Series channels are the top rated channels in prime time in places such as Italy, Spain, Latin America and Japan, apart from the local popular channels. So we have a lot of expectations from this channel."
It is the second of two English-language, free-to-air satellite television channels introduced this year by Fox and Rotana. The first, Fox Movies, was launched in May. The new channels are based in Dubai and owned by the Fox Network, which also provides most of the content. Rotana is responsible for regional sales. "Fox Series adds one more important channel genre to our bouquet and enables RMS [Rotana Media Services] to provide an even more comprehensive solution to advertisers," said Nezar Nagro, the president of Rotana Media Services.
Rotana's regional sales team was likely to expand, Mr D'Silva said, since, in addition to launching a new series channel, the company recently took over ad sales duties for LBC, the Lebanese satellite broadcaster, which merged with Rotana in July. "Effective in 2009, Rotana will also be selling the LBC channel as part of their portfolio," Mr D'Silva said. LBC's ad sales had previously been handled by the Choueiri Group.
In addition to Desperate Housewives, the new channel will broadcast the science fiction series Kyle XY, which charts the struggle of Kyle to unravel the mystery of who he is after waking up in a Seattle forest with no memory of his life; Brothers and Sisters, a drama revolving around the lives of the Los Angeles Walker family; and Nip/Tuck, a medical drama following the lives of two plastic surgeons.
Those who have watched the occasionally racy latter programme in its home market of the US should be prepared for a version filtered according to the region's cultural sensitivities. "We censor all the programmes," Mr D'Silva said. firstname.lastname@example.org