Networks Intl. signs with AMG on deal

TV Networks Intl. has inked a deal with the UAE-based Arab Media Group (AMG) to launch Nickelodeon Arabia in 2008. The new satcaster further cements the long-term partnership between AMG and Viacom, following an earlier decision to launch joint venture MTV Arabia next month.

Nickelodeon Arabia will be a free-to-air satcaster, giving it access to a potential audience of 200 million people across the Arab world, with more than 60% under 30.

Sked will be a mix of existing Nickelodeon skeins and original Arabic language programming. Startup channel will be supported by a multi-media Arabic language website.

Nickelodeon Arabia will be launched under AMG’s TV wing, the Arab Television Network.

In addition to the two Viacom joint ventures, multimedia shingle AMG, which also boasts eight radio stations in addition to English and Arabic language print publications, intends to launch three more channels by the end of the year.

“Adding the voices of Arab children to our worldwide Nickelodeon family is a significant milestone in our history, and advances our ambitious strategy to build a portfolio of integrated kids businesses across the region,” MTV Networks vice chairman Bill Roedy said. “The Middle East is a dynamic, thriving market with vast growth opportunities, and we look forward to launching even more MTVNI brands and businesses through our successful partnerships with AMG and Tecom Investments.”

Tecom Investments is a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, the investment arm of the Dubai government.

There was no confirmation on further AMG-Viacom joint ventures, although discussions are in place concerning the launch of an Arabic language comedy channel.

The deal between AMG and MTV Networks Intl. is a further consolidation of a strategic partnership between Viacom execs and Dubai.

In May, the UAE-based real estate company Al Ahli Group unveiled plans to open a Nickelodeon theme park that will see Nick properties such as “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Blue’s Clues” made into attractions at the Al Ahli Park under construction in the Gulf state, and skedded to open in 2011, with a direct investment of more than 3.8 billion dirhams ($1 billion).

Viacom also owns a minority share in Dubai-based, regional paybox Showtime Arabia, a joint venture launched in 1996 with Kuwaiti investment Kipco.

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