MTV Arabia announces lineup

Channel will kick off on Nov. 17

MTV Arabia officially announced today a lineup with a big focus on hip-hop and user-generated content.

The keenly awaited joint venture between MTV Networks and Dubai-based multimedia shingle Arab Media Group will start airing Nov. 17 at midnight Dubai time on free-to-air satellite.

Satcaster, which will operate under AMG’s broadcasting arm the Arabian Television Network, has a potential pan-regional audience of nearly 200 million, two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30. The youth demographic has become a lucrative and key battleground for Arab TV execs.“Understanding the next generation is a key priority for AMG,” said AMG chief exec Abdullatif Al-Sayegh. “Through our network, we now have more platforms to talk to our youth and in ways that have never been done before in the Middle East.” Since young people “represent 65% of the population in the Middle East, it’s time they were heard.”

While MTV Arabia will export existing MTV programming such as “Cribs,” “Pimp My Ride” and “Total Request Live,” the new satcaster is also introducing original Arabic-language productions to its sked, embracing Arab hip-hop artists from the region.

The focus on local rappers will allow MTV and AMG execs to sidestep, at least partially, concerns about potential clashes between risque musicvids and conservative local traditions in some parts of the region. MTV execs confirmed that some musicvids will be edited if the content is deemed inappropriate for local auds.

Flagship show is “Hip Hop Na,” a 12-episode series that will hold auditions for local rappers in seven Mideast cities. Winner from each city will have the opportunity to record a track that will feature on a “Hip Hop Na” soundtrack album, produced by hosts Don Legend of Saudi rap group Jeddah Legends and U.S. producer Fred Wreck, who has previously worked with the likes of 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg.

Other shows include “Waslati,” which will give Arab auds the chance to become hosts by introducing their favorite videos via webcam; “Baqbeek,” a localized version of “Pop-Up Video”; and “Introducing Block,” a behind-the-scenes look at the music industry similar to the “MTV Diary” format.

Sked will focus on both international and Arab artists, with a roughly 60%-40% split. MTV execs are hoping the channel will be able to compete with a plethora of existing Arab music nets, such as Rotana, Melody and Mazzika, by offering local artists a gateway to international auds.

“MTV has been responsible for breaking artists from Latin America, Asia and India beyond their natural and domestic markets because we have the global platform to do so,” said Bhavneet Singh, managing director and senior VP of emerging markets, MTV Nets Intl. “We will be in a position, for example, to take some of the Arab artists to the MTV European Music Awards. Music translates and travels across the world. We will be able to export the best of Arab music outside of the Middle East.”

MTV Arabia will launch with a glitzy confab in Dubai on Nov. 15 with a mix of international and Arab artists performing in front of an invited audience of local youths. MTV execs, including MTV Nets vice chairman Bill Roedy, will also be on hand.

New channel is only the first of a proposed series of linkups between MTV Networks and AMG. The two have also inked a deal to launch Nickelodeon Arabia in 2008 and are in talks to develop additional MTV channels, such as VH1 and Comedy Central, into Arabic-language services.

“(We’re) giving Arabs a bigger voice and greatly enriching the diversity of our MTV creative culture,” said Roedy. MTV Nets is ramping up its activities across the region. Execs announced last week that they had inked a deal to launch MTV Israel, an IPTV initiative, in partnership with Israeli media combo Ananey Communications.