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‘Million’s Poet’ a runaway success

Show enables Abu Dhabi TV to expand

BAGHDAD — Verse, variety and reality — that’s the magic mix in the elixir Abu Dhabi TV has concocted to relaunch itself as a major pan-Arab broadcaster.

First taste of success was “The Million’s Poet,” a kind of “American Idol” for Gulf region poets that in its first season last year drew millions of eyeballs, scored ratings that overtook those of soccer and was hailed as one of the most successful Arab television shows ever when it preemed in December 2006. The skein is set to conclude its second season this month.

Sister show “The Prince of Poets,” which sees participation stretching beyond the Gulf into the entire Arab world, has also been a big hit ever since debuting in June of last year.

Nashwa Al-Ruwaini, chief exec of Pyramedia, the production company behind “The Prince of Poets,” promises an even brighter second season of the pan-Arab version, set to air in June.

“The auditions tour around the region (has further) spread the word about the program,” says Al-Ruwaini, adding that more than 10,000 poets had auditioned for the second season.

The interactive nature of the show, she believes, fueled participation “and a sense that everyone had a stake in the program.”

The shows have been a key part of the revamp of Abu Dhabi TV, the national station, and part of the Abu Dhabi government’s decision to establish the oil-rich emirate as a cultural center, even as fellow emirate Dubai forges ahead as a regional hub for media, construction and finance.

“The ambitions of the Abu Dhabi Media Co., of which Abu Dhabi TV is a part, start at home in the U.A.E. and expand well beyond regional borders,” says Abu Dhabi TV exec director Karim Sarkis. “These ambitions will be expressed through a variety of brands in television, newspapers, magazines and digital media. The ongoing efforts at Abu Dhabi TV are only the beginning of the journey.”

Abu Dhabi officials have signed multimillion-dollar deals to bring local versions of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums to Abu Dhabi and in September inked a multibillion-dollar, multimedia deal with Warner Bros. that includes film and vidgame production plus the creation of a theme park and hotel.

Money is no object — Abu Dhabi is reputedly the richest city in the world, its wealth largely springing from oil.

And it is on a “Ton of Cash” that Abu Dhabi TV is now relying for the next phase of its transformation.

The station commissioned production giant Endemol, which opened a dedicated Middle East office in Dubai late last year, to create the reality-based adventure show, which will see two teams competing in a grueling race across both the U.A.E. and Oman.

Each team will be carrying a “ton of cash”: The goal is to keep most of it and beat the other team to the final destination.

Abu Dhabi TV has also snapped up gameshow format “Divided” for a 26-episode run set to bow in May this year and reality format “Top of the Flops” from Endemol’s Middle East operations. “Top of the Flops” will make its primetime bow in October this year for a 12-episode run.

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