National Geographic Abu Dhabi in push to make more local shows
LONDON: National Geographic Abu Dhabi says it is increasing the amount of Middle East-focused shows it makes by 15 to 20 percent a year, as the Arabic-language TV station looks to better connect with its audience.
The channel, which is available to view free via satellite, has made a string of Middle East-focused programs, including films about the UAE military and the Saudi Arabia- based dairy producer Almarai.
Sanjay Raina, general manager of National Geographic Abu Dhabi MENA and Fox Networks Group Middle East, says that the channel is now boosting its Middle East content output further.
“It’s certainly increasing. I would use a figure of about 15-20 percent year-on-year,” Raina told Arab News.
“The main reason is the fact that there are lots of stories happening in the region… The whole team feels that bringing alive local programming makes this channel much more connected with the local audiences… It’s stories from your world.”
The channel launched in 2009, through a tie-up with Abu Dhabi Media, and is the world’s “only free-to-air National Geographic channel”, Raina said.
It is available in about 60 million television households across the Arab world, Raina said. He declined to disclose actual viewership numbers, but said it is “the number-one factual channel in the Arabic language in the whole region”, with a high viewership among men aged 15 to 35.
Raina said the channel, which generates revenues through advertising and sponsorships, is profitable. Income is partly through advertiser-funded productions, for example a show made in association with Land Rover, in which a new auto model was driven deep into the heart of the UAE desert.
National Geographic Abu Dhabi is broadcast on free-to-air TV in the Middle East and North Africa, while its English-language sister stations are on pay-TV networks — an arrangement Raina sees continuing for the foreseeable future.
The Abu Dhabi channel, in line with other stations associated with the 128- year- old National Geographic society, recently rebranded with the new global tagline "Further". National Geographic Partners is a joint ven- ture with 21st Century Fox.
Aside from overseeing the natural history channels in the Middle East, Raina is also responsible for the Fox Movies and other Fox channels in the region.
Raina said that he had been in talks with regional TV platforms about launching more Fox channels in this region, but that it was too early to say whether this would happen.
“We are mindful of the fact that pay-TV is taking its own strides to grow in the region. And hence we need to be at the top the curve to ride that growth,” he said.
Fox Networks Group Middle East has offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the executive said.
“We are probably the largest international media… content company in the region,” said Raina. “We have about 60 people and we are growing.”