Cooperating with content

How mena.tv aims to help broadcasters cash in on their content assets
Nick Grande, MD of ChannelSculptor and founder of mena.tv.
Nick Grande, MD of ChannelSculptor and founder of mena.tv.
Heba Korayem,   head of broadcaster relations, ChannelSculptor.
Heba Korayem, head of broadcaster relations, ChannelSculptor.

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Mena.tv launched its content hub at DISCOP Dubai last month with the aim of helping to empower regional broadcasters to monetise their programming libraries with regional and international buyers.

Digital Broadcast Middle East caught up with Nick Grande, MD of ChannelSculptor and founder of mena.tv, and Heba Korayem, head of broadcaster relations at ChannelSculptor, to find out more about the initiative.

DB: What’s the background to the launch of mena.tv, and how will it benefit members?

Grande: The purpose of the mena.tv initiative is industry cooperation – creating transparency and growth in the fragmented MENA TV marketplace. The mena.tv Content Hub that launched at DISCOP 2017 is just one of several mena.tv initiatives we are working on. For example, we also host a semi-annual mena.tv Leaders’ Summit, where the CEOs of the major MENA broadcasters and networks meet to debate and develop areas of potential industry cooperation.

Content is the biggest single revenue stream in the industry (surpassing ad sales, subscriptions and technology), and yet it’s not at all easy for regional buyers and sellers to find each other. Most MENA content deals are done on an ad-hoc one-to-one basis, or are initiated at content fairs outside the region (such as MIPCOM). The mena.tv Content Hub provides a shop window for content owners to market their libraries of shows and formats, and for content buyers to find and view content that is relevant to them. Our hope is that it will be a catalyst for more transactions and more revenues throughout the MENA TV industry.

DB: Where did the idea for the mena.tv Content Hub come from?

Korayem: We are often approached by regional and international broadcasters, telcos and OTT networks looking for Middle Eastern content, because ChannelSculptor has hundreds of regional broadcaster partners. MENA broadcasters are sitting on a goldmine of valuable content and are not doing enough to monetise their libraries. Many have thousands of hours of content rights sitting doing nothing in archive, at a time when more and more buyers are entering the market. The mena.tv Content Hub was a natural way to bring the two together.

I’m happy to say we now have a single online platform where we can direct all these potential buyers, and they’ll be able to access a variety of content genres, listed not only by other broadcasters, but also by distributors, producers, and format owners from the region and from around the world.

DB: How long did it take to get the initiative off the ground, and what were the main challenges?

Grande: We were focused on several mena.tv initiatives last year, but the Content Hub became our highest priority when DISCOP Dubai was announced in June 2016. DISCOP is an internationally respected show, and we were confident that their Dubai event would be a game-changer for the MENA content marketplace.

We could also see that the timing was perfect for MENA broadcasters, many of which are keen to develop new revenue streams. We were in a position both to help those broadcasters and to support DISCOP Dubai at the same time.

Our main challenge was that the mena.tv Content Hub is a new concept - there aren’t any other online B2B content hubs around the world, so there wasn’t a template for us to follow. We had to create the whole idea from scratch, and to persuade major regional players to engage and commit resources to the project. I’m very happy to say that our launch partners are some of the biggest content brands in the region.

DB: How successful was DISCOP for mena.tv?

Korayem: The success of mena.tv at DISCOP depended on the success of our partner broadcasters, so we did everything we could to support them. We were showcasing some of the Arab world’s most watched content libraries, ranging from documentaries, kids programming, drama, talk shows and comedy from nine prominent channel brands: LBC, Al Hayat, Rotana, Al Kahera Wal Nas, Ajman TV, Ro’ya, Spacetoon, CNBC Arabiya and Al Aan TV. It was hard for anybody to just walk past without stopping by to ask more about us!

Word went around quickly, and our front desk staff at DISCOP were struggling to find available meeting slots in our exhibitor’s agendas for additional meetings. All the deals done will be announced on the deals section of the mena.tv content hub - so stay tuned.

DB: Where do you see the initiative going in the next 12-18 months? How do you hope to see it develop longer term?

Grande: We have been delighted with the success so far: new content vendors from around the GCC have already applied to join the Content Hub, and we are receiving requests from around the world. At the same time, broadcasters, operators and OTT platforms both in the region and outside have been registering as buyers on the hub. Most importantly, we can already see connections and deal flow.

Our next challenge is to ensure that the site is user-friendly and well-stocked for buyers and sellers. Based on the three weeks since launch, we are confident that over the coming year there will be many hundreds of buyers making use of the service, and there will be thousands of hours of drama, comedy, factual, entertainment, sports and kids shows for them to find on the mena.tv Content Hub. Our job will be to make sure it’s as easy as possible for buyers to connect with and transact with sellers. We won’t stop there though – we will have more mena.tv initiatives to announce later in 2017.

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