Fayez Al-sabbagh: The Magic of Childhood Beautifully Captured
Who was behind the launch of the Spacetoon Kids’ channel 15 years ago?
We conducted studies on kids' media, in collaboration with local and foreign companies, to find a concept based on unique characteristics that do not imitate other existing channels of its kind. We began these studies in 1997, two years before the launch of the channel. We then came up with a concept based on a group of ten planets each of which offers a different kind of programme for different audiences and genders.
Additional funding for the project came from numerous sources chief among them was the government of Bahrain represented by the ministry of information including many businessmen belonging to different communication fields from the Arabian Gulf and Japan.
How has the initial model developed over the past 15 years?
The channel ranks first within the Arab kids media scene in the region with coverage of 22 Arab countries boasting an audience of 118 million viewers under the age of 14. One reason behind this massive following is due to the use of accurate classic Arabic dubbing as well as maintaining an awareness of and respect for the family and cultural values of the region all resulting in programming carefully balanced between education and entertainment.
Our strategy has changed since we first launched moving from traditional media to advanced digital services. Through constant innovation, we included many additional platforms including a Mobile Club, a website and a monthly magazine. In the last five years we focused more on digital content with increased attention on social media and the re-launch of Spacetoon ID.
What is the impact of the online world on the kids’ advertisements?
Today, there is a real war between TV and the Internet. However, in the Arab world, TV remains essential for the public despite the fact that the number of viewing hours is decreasing. One reason is because TV is slowly being replaced with smartphones and tablets. Nonetheless, we believe that the future will belong to smart TVS because they offer the biggest immersive experience considering screen size.
What sets your network apart?
I would have to say it’s our approach in exposing and engaging our audiences through diverse outlets, which accommodate most of their needs be they print, digital or even promotional. And, with every success, we add more content such as Beyblade, Bakugan, Ben 10, Ninja Turtles, Conan, Pokémon, Dragon Ball and classic animation.
What does your network offer advertisers?
We help expand the sales of the two largest manufacturers and distributors of toys in the region. Furthermore, the companies who use our platforms to promote their products have seen an increase in sales between 15-20 percent. This also affords advertisers perfect opportunities to familiarise the viewers with their products. The reason behind such increase is due to our unique theme-based format of programming. Based on the interest areas of children aged between 2-15 years, the station developed ten popular categories each customised
to attract a distinct audience within the overall target segment. Every hour of the day is dedicated to a planet according to viewing patterns and age.
The ten planets cover the full spectrum of children’s interests under the following headings: Movies, Education, History, Science, Action, Adventure, Sport, Comedy, Girls and Bonbon (baby and parent shows). This way, the station can better reflect the interests of its audiences.
This also helps advertisers maximise the impact of their products and brands. In fact, we can offer a variety of advertising vehicles for wider coverage and more effective reach of the target audience such as Arabic edutainment and cartoons, an interactive web portal providing safe browsing for the younger generation, magazines that offer the best reading source for kids to learn and entertain themselves, in addition to interactive multimedia games and educational software. To top it all, we stream our content on tablets and smartphones.
And with the backing of Kids Media, our exclusive media partner in the Middle East and North Africa headed by Roger Abi Lahoud, we have managed to expand our brand by selling advertising space to further finance novel expansion possibilities through effective media planning and creative categories exploitation. Does ST have its own production?
We have a co-production budget and we recently cooperated with Lalune Light Studio, Lagardere group and Radio Canada, to produce ‘MIA’, a highly anticipated theatrical animation for TV based on award-winning educational materials adopted in 17 languages and sold in 40 territories across the world. This animated 3D CGI comedy-adventure is aimed at a 2-6-year-old audience and will launch on our network in the fourth quarter of this year and will also be broadcast in Malaysia and Indonesia.
What are the most important programmes on ST?
We acquired the TV broadcasting and agency licensing rights for the new Sesame Street series targeting new mothers. Other available series include Masha and the Bear, which in its category became the most viewed series on Youtube in the world. Another is my Little Pony, which the channel has the exclusive TV rights, set record merchandising sales in the Middle East. In addition, we have shows like Alvin, Grendizer, Naruto, Power Ranger, Bob the Builder, Mike the Knight, Thomas and Friends, Hot Wheels, Dream Works and Fox Movies...
With the proliferation of new media and devices will you be expanding your cross-media offering?
Our group of companies is a multiplatform entity that creates a full media experience for kids with A-Z programming. Digital content is one of our strong media tools used to promote and monetise the content in the region. We also launched two app games on IOS and Android platforms with more to come. Going the extra mile, we established many partnerships with mobile operators in the region to increase our digital content penetration with Video on Demand.
All these offerings have proven to have a huge following as evidenced by the network’s Youtube channel boasting + 20 million monthly views and +30,000 monthly subscribers bringing the total to 300,000. As a result, I can proudly say that Spacetoon is the most popular brand in the Arab world.