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.

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