New Channel Aims For Middle East's Under Thirty Demographic
Viacom and the Dubai-based Arab Media Group have launched a version of MTV aimed at an Arab audience.
MTV Arabia premiered at midnight on Saturday with performances by the rapper Ludacris, the Senegalese superstar Akon, and the UAE hip hop band Desert Heat.
The American-based music video channel plans to feature locally produced reality television programs along with Arab hip hop and international music videos.
With two-thirds of the Middle East's population under thirty, the market for MTV Arabia is potentially huge.
The opportunity for SMS-based revenue is particularly high considering the large number of people using mobile phones in the region.
A Cluttered Arab Market
The venture faces challenges.
The Middle East is already home to over 30 satellite channels airing Arab music videos.
MTV Arabia's coverage will be without many of the region's top stars, who are are locked into exclusive contracts with media companies like the Saudi-based Rotana Music Group.
This is one reason why the new channel will focus on hip hop and R & B videos, which MTV executives see as a largely untapped segment of the market.
MTV also hopes to lure viewers with Arabic versions of Pimp My Ride and The Dream, a show where viewers watch as awkward teens are transformed into stars.
Navigating Cultural Mores
MTV has a history of doing well with provocative music videos and scantily clad women.
The parent companies' executive are aware of the risk the brand may alienate conservative Arab culture.
Arab Media Group CEO Abdullatif al-Sayegh has said conscientious editors will cut out any offending material.
MTV's Bhavneet Singh gave his reassurances with a bit more pitch: "We hope to provide a platform for Arab youth to break boundaries without disrespecting their tradition and culture."
Time will tell if such a mission is possible and, more importantly, profitable.