Endemol drills fresh Mideast product

Regional operation launches with 'Ton of Cash'

For Endemol Intl., the global entertainment specialist whose properties include “Big Brother” and “Deal or No Deal,” the Middle East spells cash — tons of it.

Since opening its regional branch, Endemol Middle East, last November with headquarters in Dubai and a branch office in Beirut, the Dutch-based production giant has been forging deals across the region.

First up was reality gamer “Ton of Cash” with Abu Dhabi TV, set to bow in October for a run of 13 episodes.

Endemol execs have since inked a number of deals with some of the region’s leading satcasters, including leading pan-Arab net MBC for entertainment format “M/F.” The show will bow in October this year.

Dubai TV has commissioned 13 episodes of “The Kids Are All Right” while Rotana will preem live reality series “The Manager” in November with a nine-episode initial run.

Production on “Ton of Cash” began in March, with filming set for the U.A.E. and Oman.

EME managing director Ziad Kebbi plans to produce six to eight shows in 2008.

Positioning itself squarely in the rapidly expanding Gulf market, EME has set up office in Dubai Studio City and rents studio facilities according to its various production needs.

Endemol has been a major player in Arab TV since the late 1990s, licensing “Deal or No Deal,” “Worlds Apart” and “Star Academy,” one of the region’s most popular shows, now in its fifth season.

But instead of relying on Arab stations to produce content, as it has in the past, EME now aims to license and produce all programs itself.

“The region is growing at a very fast pace, and there is more money to be made in production apart from licensing fees,” creative director Dany Karam explains.

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