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.”

San­jay Raina

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