Arab broadcasters go on North Africa campaign

Dubai Maghrebia to launch in January

LONDON — Dubai TV is looking westward with a new channel tailored to North African auds.

Dubai Maghrebia will launch in January, using Dubai TV’s existing programming; content dedicated to local auds will be rolled out toward the end of 2007.

“We believe there’s a big boom in the North African economies right now, especially Algeria. There’s money to be made there,” says managing editor Ali Jaber.

Dubai’s move follows a trend among the top three pan-Arab satcasters to target auds in North Africa, more commonly known as the Maghreb region. These countries include Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

Rival satcasters Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. (LBC) have set up dedicated stations they hope will claim an increasingly profitably slice of the ad pie there.

“We launched MBC Maroc as part of our expansion plans to feel close to all Arab communities. We realized there was a big following in North Africa,” says Michel Costandi, MBC’s director of business development.

Traditionally, francophone Maghreb auds have tended to tune in to French satcasters such as Canal Plus and Tele France.

“These people who used to point their dishes toward France are now discovering the pan-Arab satellite boom. They would like to feel closer with that side of their Arab identity,” Jaber says.

Aside from bigger ratings, there’s a strong commercial argument for the move.

There are some 200 satcasters all vying for the same ad dollars.

Saudi Arabia is the dominant force in Arab TV ad revenue, accounting for anything up to a quarter of the total market.

Continuing economic growth and political stability in the Maghreb countries of Tunisia, Morocco and particularly in Algeria, which for years was blighted by civil strife, could see the region become one of the key profit generators in the overcrowded free-to-air pan-Arab satellite field.

“It’s an emerging market and it has a great deal of potential,” says LBC’s CEO Pierre Daher.