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A vision for broadcast

by Roger Field on Feb 20, 2017

Fares Sayegh has gained experience in all areas of running the channel, including being the MC  for the live show of Jordan Star.
Fares Sayegh has gained experience in all areas of running the channel, including being the MC for the live show of Jordan Star.

At a time when on-demand viewing is growing at a rapid clip, Roya TV, a channel launched in Jordan in 2011, offers a valuable case study of how a mainstream broadcaster can prosper and also use online platforms to their advantage.

By any estimation, Roya TV’s performance has been impressive. Three years after its launch it became the most watched local channel in Jordan, ahead of the top state-owned channel JTV. It is the second most popular channel overall in Jordan after MBC1, according to data from Ipsos.

Much of Roya TV’s success appears to stem from the founders’ willingness to do things differently, by keeping a razor-sharp focus on plugging a proven gap in the Jordanian market.

The channel is owned by the Sayegh Group, which has interests in industries as diverse as paint and media. The group saw an opportunity to move into the TV industry in 2009 based on a study that indicated a need for a private channel in Jordan to focus on local issues and current affairs, according to Fares M. Sayegh, general manager, Roya TV.

The channel’s architects went further and carried out extensive research to see just what the Jordanian population would want from a new channel and found that the best approach would be to create original local content catering to youth and families. The group acquired an existing channel, Watan TV, which had a licence that permitted the broadcast of all types of programmes through multiple channels. After rebranding the channel, Roya TV focused on airing quality local content produced under its own steam.

“We managed to get to this position [as number-one local channel] by the third year because we concentrated a lot on the local content and there was a huge gap for that,” Fares Sayegh says. “Nobody was paying attention to local production or looking at the local talent who started by doing videos on YouTube.”

And this is exactly what Roya TV did. While other broadcasters around the world looked on as OTT platforms leached traditional traffic, Sayegh and his team viewed online channels such as YouTube in a more positive light and used them as a means of identifying talent. “The quality [of popular YouTube content] wasn’t always great, so our strategy was to pinpoint the talent out there, finance their projects and do capacity building to make sure that whatever they wanted to produce they could produce better. We offered them advice in the form of directors, DoPs and producers. In some cases we actually produced content for some of them. This gave us a very quick attraction for the viewers who had a great hunger for fresh content, but which nobody was tapping into.”

Roya TV’s general programming consists of four main periods: morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening. A significant proportion of the content is live shows focusing on news and current affairs, culture, cooking, society and sports.

The channel is currently broadcast via Nilesat across the MENA region in standard definition from Jordan Media City. However, Roya TV is upgrading to HD production and transmission and expects to have two simulcast channels, one SD and one HD, by Ramadan.

“It was a very big project and it was very much needed because a growing segment of the population is used to watching HD,” Sayegh says. “Unfortunately there is still a big percentage of people that don’t have HD capability in their home, so we have to keep the SD broadcast too.”

Roya TV started work on the upgrade a couple of months ago but as Sayegh explains, the process has been relatively straightforward because the channel is quite new and so most of its equipment was already HD-ready. This leaves just a few technical upgrades and licencing issues to organise. Sayegh adds that all content produced by Roya TV, which is about 90% of the content shown on the channel, is already recorded in HD, even though it is currently broadcast in SD.


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