Industry leaders talk about competition between Arabic and English content in the Middle East region

Dubai – United Arab Emirates, August 14th 2012: These days, Arabic media content can be displayed in many shapes and colors and presented through different TV, Radio, Print Media, Internet channels, in addition to social networks. The number of individuals using the internet as a media source in the Arab World, especially youth is vast, still many individuals use TV as a source of entertainment and news. Latest research in this field shows that there are more than 538 free TV channels broadcasting 24/7 however, the percentage of viewers varies according to the content provided by the channel itself.

As a result of these numerous Arabic TV channels in the market and the long airing time, most TV channels started to fill the time with imported English programs and soaps which in time became very popular. Some think that English content with its excellent production dominated the Arabic channels and left no room for creative local talents to blossom and denied them the right to show their talents and capabilities. Moreover, creative Arabic content has become exclusive only during the Holy month of Ramadan, where competition starts between TV channels on who can obtain the largest number of viewers. The question remains, why do production houses and TV stations limit their good production during the Holy month of Ramadan and not throughout the year?

Mr. Jawad Abbassi, General Manager of the Arab Advisors Group, the research partner for The Big Entertainment Show said: “the Holy month of Ramadan is classified as the most active month for TV Channels in the Arab world as it is usually full of intensive drama productions, TV series and programs that are rich in content and has a unique presentation. Producers during Ramadan compete to present the best of the best TV drama and programs seeking viewer’s satisfaction. Competition exists also between TV channels while some of them seek to own the exclusivity right for certain programs. Moreover, Ramadan introduces a high demand on certain commodities which means more competition on TV Ads, and that in one way or another creates a huge demand for new and excellent TV programs during Ramadan.”

“Ramadan has its special rituals, lots of family and friends gather in the evening plus there are less working hours during the day, that’s why people have more time to watch TV than usual. This fact motivates producers to continuously present their very best. However, that doesn’t mean that the Arabic media content exists only in Ramadan and vanishes throughout the year, there are indeed many excellent Arabic productions, but Ramadan has its own flavor.”

Competition between Arabic and English content in the Middle East region still exists despite that most industry experts reassure that the Arabic content is moving forward, though slowly. Others may say that Arabic content is way much better than English content, for example Mr. Abbassi said that “dubbing and licensing English content is still popular in the Arab world and it becomes more intensive when it comes to reality TV programs; however we can’t overlook the number of excellent Arabic programs that are quite a success.

Mr. Jawad Abbassi also said: “there are non Arabs who live in the Arab countries, we must not forget that! Therefore, we find that a good number of TV stations broadcast English programs, in addition, those programs have Arab viewers too!”

English programs are not the only competitor in the market, Turkish drama now has a good share in the Arab TV broadcasting programs. It is not a secret anymore that Turkish drama owned a very special place within Arab viewers in a very short period and it has now the lion share of viewers in the region and some believe that Turkish drama has become vital in the Arabic drama industry.

High production budgets, attention to details and the unlimited number of episodes and seasons – compared to an Arabic series that consists of a maximum of 30 series and not more than one season, are some of the many reasons that stood behind the unprecedented success achieved by Turkish drama.

Content is King! The creation of a vibrant local content production industry is key to the growth of the TV industry in the Arab world and has shown development over the past two years. Geographic hubs for TV series production are expanding across the region, with some of the Gulf States making the most of the recent unrest in traditional markets for content production such as Egypt and Syria. As the number of markets producing content increases, so will the breadth of content available for viewers and the ensuing competition can only be a positive development for creativity in the industry.

Animation in particular is finding a new home in the Arab world, nevertheless, this industry is experiencing slow growth and the reason being the fear that large production companies has for implementing local animation projects that require big effort and high budgets, in addition to the lack of supporters for this business. Experts say that the volume of the animation filmmaking in the United States is estimated at $40 billion and the market value has reached $400 Billion.

Cartoon and animation industry in the region have witnessed a huge development during the past couple of years. Some production houses have bought the license of foreign TV channels and introduced them to the Arabic audience with 100% Arabic content. Nevertheless the question remains, what is the volume of the Arabic Cartoon Production.

Ms. Natalie Habib, General Manager and Executive Producer at Blinks Studios said: “It is very difficult to equate an accurate regional share of production that is dedicated solely to animation. There is definitely a surge in animation productions targeting the Ramadan season. Broadcasters tend to be searching for new and creative animated concepts to air as Ramadan entertainment and are very ready to invest into their production, otherwise, long form productions for big screens, TV and online still have room for major growth. Investments into this type of production is haphazard and not a priority for broadcasters, producers and general investors since most prefer to buy “off-the-shelf” ready made content that they are happy to dub into Arabic.”

Ms. Habib also said: “ As for the very few  original animated productions that found fame in the last 5 years, they were pretty much supported on criteria that is not standard to the international market. Most of those animation concepts are chosen on cultural preference rather than simply assessing whether they truly deliver on great entertainment and high returns.”

Ms. Natalie added: “Unfortunately, the regional budgets allocated to media productions most rarely classify animation as one of the main genres to be sourced, developed and produced. There is also a huge gap in the regional market for well trained animation talents. That does not only fall in the category of “animator” as a role. The region suffers from the lack of the core talent to developing great concepts, in better words, writers.”

“Writers are few and far to find. Concepts that start off with great premises are most of the time compromised by weak and under developed scripts. We at Blinks Studios pride ourselves for housing most, if not all, of our talents from the Arab world, and we hope that other regional animation studios can find the right formula to do the same and slowly disregard the solution of sourcing talent from outside the Arab region.” Continued Ms. Natalie

Industry leaders in Dubai have embraced the precious value of the TV Production and entertainment industry in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2009, Dubai hosted the first editions of the “Dubai World Game Expo, Character Dubai and MYCONTENT” now known as the “Big Entertainment Show”. The event has become the largest show in the Middle East Region specialized in Media and TV content, Character and Brand Licensing Game Developing and publishing, in addition to all trading companies working in the export and import business. This unique event attracts TV Broadcasters, game developers, investors and licensors from all parts of the world to the Middle East Market, which is considered one of the biggest importing markets for this industry.

The Big Entertainment Show is scheduled from the 27th – 28th of November this year at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event will highlight the importance of this promising market and the need to develop proper Arabic content, learn from the foreign experiences and the success stories during the event’s summit educational sessions.

Condensed Imported Arabic Drama in Ramadan, does it leave any room for local talents?

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