MTV, Twofour54 agree on Abu Dhabi venture

LONDON – The Arab world is about to get a little funnier. MTV Networks Intl. and Abu Dhabi’s Twofour54 have inked a pact to launch Comedy Central Studios Arabia.

The new company, which will be based in Abu Dhabi, will develop and produce comedy content in Arabic for broadcast and distribution across the Middle East and North Africa.

While existing Comedy Central formats are likely to be adapted for the Arab market, the focus will also be on developing new Arabic comedy talent across multi-platforms, including standup, as well as short- and long-form programming.

“I found early on that Arabs are funny and inherently amusing,” said Twofour54 chief exec Tony Orsten. “There is a large appetite for comedy content in this region. We want to create a production industry based on it and find opportunities to find new talent.”

“The important thing for us was to be able to create a route to market,” added Bhavneet Singh, MTVNI’s managing director and exec VP of emerging markets. “Ipsos research shows that there is a significant appetite for local comedy content in the Middle East. Nearly 500 comedy episodes are aired across the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region every month.”

The Comedy Central branding will help Twofour54, launched in October 2008 with the aim of becoming a content creation hub in the Middle East, to attract some of the best and emerging comic talent in the Arab world. With a population of some 320 million, two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30, there is a huge potential audience for youth-friendly comedy material.

Twofour54 execs have already launched a Comedy Arabia website, although that has tended to focus on primarily English-language content. The new Comedy Central Studios Arabia will be entirely dedicated to Arabic language content.

MTVNI already has a foothold in the increasingly lucrative Arab TV market with the likes of MTV Arabia and Nickelodeon Arabia. Both those channels are run by the Dubai-based Arab Media Group. Last month, Arab Media Group’s assets were brought under the control of Dubai’s government-owned Dubai Media as part of a wider consolidation of Dubai government-held assets.

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