Mideast: Reality reigns as region remains highly unstable

Mipcom 2005: Territory report

Reality TV remains the order of the day across the Mideast.

Despite a typically tempestuous 12 months across the region, with political instability and ongoing violence in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as the death of Saudi King Fahd, reality formats have remained atop the ratings and local execs’ shopping lists.

Leading the way as usual is the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. (LBC) with its rich stable of programming, including “Star Academy 2,” the follow-up to its successful pan-Arab adaptation of the “Pop Idol” format, as well as a Lebanese version of “The Farm,” starring Haifa Wehbi, the Arab world’s J.Lo.

“The Farm’s” opening episode generated a 60% audience share, increasing LBC’s primetime average by 45% after five weeks of transmission.

“There’s nothing in the competition that’s beating us right now,” says Pierre Daher, LBC executive director.

Despite a difficult 2005 that saw the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February, LBC has maintained its position as the market-leading satcaster across the Mideast, with reality TV and imported formats.

“Everything is back to normal,” Daher assures. “At Mipcom I’ll be looking to acquire more formats that fit into our general entertainment framework.”

In fact, imported reality formats have been making their mark across the region, particularly in Iraq. Kirkuk TV’s “Cops,” loosely based on the U.S. show, and Al-Sumariyah’s “Iraq Star” have proved hugely successful with local strife-weary auds.

The last 12 months also have seen the successful launch of Dubai TV, the second-most popular satcaster across the region; Dubai’s own English-language One TV and new local channel Samaa Dubai. All are under the management of Lebanese exec Ali Jaber.

Relying on imported formats — Nashville-style talent show “The Stars of the Gulf” as well as “Friends Forever” — Jaber will be coming to Mipcom looking to acquire reality and variety formats to produce in Arabic.

“Our programming has become very sophisticated,” Jaber says. “One TV particularly is gaining popularity, with 70%-80% of our Arabic production based on foreign formats.”

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