Bring it home
According to Sanjay Raina, Fox International Channels’ general manager for Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan, one of the program’s top priorities here is to have content that is regionally relevant. One example, according to Raina, that has been widely popular with a local audience is National Geographic Abu Dhabi. Other local initiatives include Ultimate Airport Dubai, which Raina says, “shows the human angle behind the airport’s success”. He continues by expanding on the local content, describing an initiative from last year, called “I am a Nat Geo Photographer” which was completely shot in Arabic with local talent. Partnering with Nikon and Nissan, eight prospective photographers from the region, both Emirati and other MENA nationalities, were featured in the reality TV series. One winner was chosen and, he explains, “It became a world-class case study for Nikon.” A new initiative will take place over the month of June, called “Every Emirati’s Son” which is based on the mandatory conscription for each Emirati male to serve in the national army for 9 months.
Let’s get digital
“National Geographic Abu Dhabi is one of the most significant digital players in the market,” Raina explains. The channel’s corresponding Facebook likes have hit approximately 12 million; he explains that this amount of engagement “is massive considering the worldwide Nat Geo fan likes are approximately 50 million”. Out of that 50 million, 12 million come from the MENA region. Raina notes other social media and platforms as well, firing off some numbers: the channel has approximately 80,000 Twitter followers, close to 150,000 subscribers on YouTube, and more than 700,000 followers in the MENA region on Google+.
Raina attributes much of the content’s success to the region’s advanced social media environment, saying, “Content is king, but if you don’t have strong content coupled with people who have exceptionally strong social media skills, this phenomenon would not happen.” Continuing the discussion, he goes back to the content, with another explanation of the channel’s success being the usage of colloquial Arabic: “we take extreme care of dubbing.”
Past, present, future
Speaking about linear TV, Raina has no doubt that it’s going to be around for the long haul. But, he admits, “We [the TV industry] need to be smarter and crisper than we are today going forward because consumers have so many more choices today, people can live without cable subscriptions in many parts of the world.” He continues advising that the industry needs to work on “addressing the aspirations of a the audiences to ensure that those audiences don’t run away to devices.”