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Poetry in motion

by Chris Newbould on Jun 12, 2012

Season Five of Million’s Poet concluded recently in Abu Dhabi. After 16 years on the region’s screens we ask producer, Pyramedia CEO Nashwa Al Ruwaini, just what is behind the shows continued success.

There can’t be too many shows that continue to grasp an audience’s imagination just as much at the close of season five as they did at the very beginning of season one. But when the series five final of Million’s Poet wrapped at Abu Dhabi’s Al Raha Beach Theatre recently, it was in front of a packed live audience, and as the continuing highest-rating show on Abu Dhabi TV, with as many as 70M viewers according to the producers. Age has not wearied them it seems, to cheekily misquote a well-known English poet of yesteryear.

The enduring success of the show is perhaps even more surprising given its nature. Looking at most of the world’s current most popular shows, it seems a Hollywoodesque budget, a cast of superstars, and ideally a vampire are essential prerequisites to ratings success.

Million’s Poet has none of these. Its simple premise is one where members of the public with a penchant for poetry come into the studio and recite their poems. They are voted for by the audience in the studio and at home, and ultimately hope to progress to the final where prizes worth millions of Dirhams await. It’s the X Factor for existentialists or The Voice for those with, well, a voice.

The premise may be simple, but the show has not taken this as an excuse for keeping production values equally simple – the studio in Al Raha Theatre is a veritable hive of hi-tech gadgetry, with a light show that would give your average U2 stage show a run for its money.

The set of Million’s Poet revolves around its astounding use of lighting. The highlight is the Desert Rose which is on a 10-metre DiaTurn Table and the first of its kind inthe UAE. By using the latest technology Million’s Poet has achieved a stunning modern touch. The striking LED Video Curtain consists of more than 2,000 high output LEDs, controlled by the MPA VPU.

A host of content is produced outside the weekly episodes too. This includes recap episodes and behind the scenes footage for use on Abu Dhabi TV, Poet TV and online as well as a glossy magazine. Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter account are all in place too to ensure fans are never far from the action.

For all the hi-tech appeal, however, Pyramedia CEO Nashwa Al Ruwaini is convinced the show’s success is due in large part to much more traditional values: “We attribute our continued success to the competition’s subject matter. Nabati Poetry is deeply rooted in local culture and successful in its own right. We found continued success from the very first season.”

At the same time, Al Ruwaini is well aware that although the show’s gut appeal may come from the longstanding poetic tradition in the region, its reach and potential to engage with audiences has been dramatically improved by technological advances.

She says: “At the very beginning of the Million’s Poet, the only way viewers could directly engage was by live attendance. It was our goal from the start to increase engagement and that’s when we introduced SMS on-screen chatting in the second season.
While that helped, it didn’t compare to our introduction of social media in season five. With the use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Million’s Poet became more engaging than ever. These outlets allowed viewers to engage with the program and the poets involved.

“Million’s Poet is the first entertainment show in the region to be using technological advances such as touch screen and integration of virtual graphics. This production technique was something that enhanced the show’s recognition and overall appearance live as well as on television.”

It’s not just in terms of audience interaction where the show has been keeping up with the latest in technology. It is, of course, broadcast live, and this means that the production and broadcast equipment needs to be super-reliable to avoid blank screens and disappointed viewers.

Al Ruwaini explains: “We need to make sure that the viewers at home on their television sets and the attendees at the show both feel the ‘wow factor’. We have a large team of people each with specific duties, so we always have to make sure each of them are on track for the final appearance.

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