Home / ANALYSIS / Turner puts content first

Turner puts content first

by Roger Field on May 15, 2017

Tarek Mounir, VP and general manager MENA, Turkey and Greece at Turner.
Tarek Mounir, VP and general manager MENA, Turkey and Greece at Turner.

By any estimation Turner’s growth in the Middle East has been impressive. Few people would have predicted that the company, which launched its Middle East operation in Dubai in 2010 with just one employee, would develop into a regional powerhouse with an animation studio and a theme park in addition to its top brands tailored for the region including Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Turner Classic Movies and CNN.

But then most people didn’t understand that first regional employee’s flair for bringing an entrepreneurial spirit to the larger corporate environment of an international operation like Turner.

Tarek Mounir, VP and general manager MENA, Turkey and Greece at Turner, has brought the local operation a long way in just seven years and the unit now has a team of more than 100 people working across commercial, editorial and production in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Much of Turner’s regional success appears to stem from the team’s focus on putting a research-led strategy ahead of perceived wisdom – a policy that is not always common in the region – along with an entrepreneurial flair that has seen the operation take some bold and decisive steps. A number of Turner initiatives spring to mind, such as launching an animation studio, Cartoon Network Studios Arabia, at twofour54 in 2011; switching its main Pay-TV platform to beIN at the start of 2016, and opening a Cartoon Network-branded theme park at IMG Worlds of Adventure in Dubai in August 2016.

Turner focuses heavily on utilising and developing the brands it has in the region to maximum effect, and also on creating new brands from scratch, such as the popular children’s animated series Mansour, the fourth season of which is now in production in Abu Dhabi.

“We have managed to build a diversified business in the Middle East,” Mounir says. “We don’t have a single streamline of revenues; we have got licensing, merchandising advertising, subscription, and content sales, so it’s very wide. Although 2016 wasn’t necessarily a vintage year for the media industry overall, we had a great year and we way over-delivered on our expectations,” he adds.

Turner’s ability to continue on a growth path in a year that saw many companies across multiple industries wilt amid declining oil prices is partly attributed to its broad spread of revenues. “When you balance your portfolio and you have a good amount of businesses running simultaneously, even if some of the businesses are slightly challenged, your overall position is maintained in a positive way,” Mounir says.

“The Middle East as a region is performing very well. We entered the region quite late compared to Turner in other markets. In the US and UK Turner has a much wider range of channels, services and products offered to the audience. Given that our commercial offices were launched in 2010 and that we started physically hiring people and growing the operations over here since then, we have done quite well in the region.”

It is easy to suspect that Mounir is being modest. The MENA unit of Turner has commanded respect from industry insiders and analysts alike. For example, Nick Grande, MD of Dubai-based broadcast consultancy Channel Sculptor, says that Turner in the MENA region has consistently proven its ability to “read the market” accurately and adapt to regional tastes and trends by executing a clear strategy based on solid research.

Two of Turner’s key strengths in the MENA region are kids’ entertainment with its flagship Cartoon Network and Boomerang channels, and news with CNN. Turner pushed the boundaries in maximising the value of Cartoon Network in the region by launching an Arabic version of the channel in late 2010, and a Hindi version in 2016. Boomerang and CNN are both also available in English and Arabic.


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