Turner Broadcasting might be better known for its channels, namely, CNN, Cartoon Network and Boomerang to name a few, but it aims to be better known for advertising on kids’ entertainment channels – a category that stays at the back of brands’ minds when drawing up their media plan. Communicate catches up with Tarek Mounir, the recently appointed general manager for the MENA, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus at Turner Broadcasting to discuss branding, advertising and entertainment.
In January, Turner rebranded Boomerang as part of an international initiative. Can you tell us more about the rebranding?
Time Warner’s Warner Bros is investing in animated content specifically for Boomerang. So we felt that it was time to give the brand a facelift and a new look and feel that doesn’t distinguish it a lot from Cartoon Network. We wanted people to feel the link between the two [channels] though both are targeted at different demographics.
What are the main distinctions between the two channels?
Cartoon Network is more [targeted] towards kids that are playful and active whereas, Boomerang gets watched by kids and parents together. Also, Cartoon Network Arabic – which is a free-to-air channel – is different from Cartoon Network English. There’s always a crossover but roughly 90 percent of the content is dedicated to one channel. Tom & Jerry, for instance, is on Boomerang and Cartoon Network Arabic but not on Cartoon Network English. The cross over on Arabic is slightly different because of it being a free-to-air channel.
What about producing regional content?
Currently, we are working on the second season of Mansour, which is a regional show created by Rashed Al Harmoodi in collaboration with Mubadala in Abu Dhabi. They did the first season themselves but we are working with them on the second season. Regional productions are slightly difficult because they come with big budgets and the region remains challenging in terms of recruitment and investment. Also, with the amount you invest, you don’t know if you will be able to retrieve that back from just the Middle East market.
Considering drama and general entertainment are big in this region, do you see yourself going down this route?
We did venture into this in the past and did not want to pursue further on that front in Turkey. In the Middle East, the current players are doing quite a good job so we’re focusing on our strengths. Obviously, we don’t have much of a general entertainment arm at the moment. In the Middle East, this is a make- it-or-break-it game. If you want to venture into the general entertainment field, you have to be able to fight the 800-pound gorilla, which is MBC Group and the question is if you want to do that or focus on your strength areas. MBC has been around for a very long time; it’s doing really well and knows exactly how to manage its business. Its market share in KSA is phenomenal and to dethrone a player of that kind is nearly impossible.
So what are the “strength areas” you are focusing on?
Viacom introduced Nickelodeon Arabic and that channel had to shut down so a lot of people ques- tioned it [our launch] knowing that a giant global competitor has failed. We had the luxury of learn- ing off other people’s mistakes. We worked pretty hard on strengthening our ad sales business and our licensing and merchandizing business so we have a good consumer products business that is generated out of our free-to-air exposure.
What was the reaction of clients on advertising on kids’ entertainment channels, especially at a time when TV is rumored to be on the decline?
We are seeing an increase by double digits year on year in terms of TV spends. However, in the first two to three years when the viewership was still not proven, a lot of people had to put faith in our company. Some people had very successful experiences with us and those case studies gave others the confidence [to advertise with us]. The split between advertising on general entertainment channels and kids channels is let’s say 80-20 in other markets, but here there was only one percent going to the latter. The room for growth was large and there simply wasn’t enough awareness in the market. Even the existing kids players are part of larger entities that were getting the ad revenue anyway so why try and shift mindsets? A lot of brands sometimes ended up on MBC3 – MBC’s kid’s channel – but that was out of a much bigger deal with the MBC Group. We actually had to go and convince clients. Now it still remains much smaller than any other European market but it’s up to approximately four to five percent. In that sense, Cartoon Network Arabic helped us grow the pie of the kids’ advertising marketing without cutting into the share of other channels’ advertising.
What are the growth areas for you in the future?
We have a lot of room to grow the subscription Video on Demand (S-VOD) business. Consumer products is another area we can focus on a lot though Disney has a much bigger market share in terms of consumer products and they’re eating up the market over here. We’re looking forward to the opening of the theme park around the end of 2015 and we’ll see how that business develops on its own.
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