Today, the Arabic TV channel Quest Arabiya began broadcasting factual entertainment shows to 45 million homes in 22 countries across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The channel is a partnership between Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Discovery Communications, designed to fill a gap in the Arabic TV market by providing "factual entertainment content of a quality and breadth that has never been seen before in the region".
Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of Image Nation Abu Dhabi, said: “There is a great need for more Arabic content across TV and digital, and by launching a factual entertainment channel we are filling a gap in the market. Quest Arabiya showcases fascinating stories from all over our region – highlighting positive achievements that have never been seen before on TV."
At a launch event today, Khalid Khouri, deputy general manager of Quest Arabiya, and Shereen El Meligi, programming director, outlined the channel’s core content.
Quest Arabiya focuses on six key genres: Extreme Outdoor, Turbo, Engineering, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Space and People & Places.
Other content areas include themed weekends, such as Big Cats and Shark Weekend. The first Saturday of each month will feature ‘Saturday Night Specials’, during which documentaries of regional interest will be screened.
Carl von Doussa, general manager of Quest Arabiya, said: “By accessing and regionalising Discovery’s extensive catalogue of internationally-acclaimed shows, as well as commissioning incredible regional programs that give a real insight into in the region and its people, we are creating a unique mix of content.”
Some of Discovery’s hit international shows – including Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush and Bear Grylls’ Man Vs Wild – have been fully adapted for the MENA audience, through dubbing and using full Arabic graphics.
Quest Arabiya is also commissioning new shows that will be developed, shot and produced in MENA and fronted by regional presenters.
The first of these shows was announced today – an adrenaline-fueled journey following two presenters across MENA as they experience some of the most extreme sports the region has to offer, such as deep water soloing in Oman, white water rafting in Morocco and snow paragliding in Lebanon.
From launch, a series of short films called Hakawi will run regularly as profiles reflecting the passions and interests of people in the region. Subjects include a Jordanian pigeon keeper, an Egyptian parkour team and a female Bahraini bodybuilder.
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In future, shows will be commissioned based on feedback through Quest Arabiya’s social media channels – meaning communities get to shape what they ultimately see on the screen.
Fostering regional talent is also key to the development of the channel, with a pre-launch campaign called ‘Quest For Talent’ that aims to find future presenters. More than 1,200 aspiring presenters from across the MENA region sent in videos in response to the initiative. 13 have been selected to feature on air and, from today, they can be seen presenting a series of short clips called Info Bites, revealing fascinating facts about the region.
Quest Arabiya’s digital offering includes a catch-up service, with all programmes available online for seven days after airing on TV.
Carl von Doussa said: “Not only are we available free-to-air in every MENA country, we also have a world class online package. What sets our website apart is the user-friendly way the content is presented and that you can watch our programmes on any laptop, tablet and mobile anywhere in MENA without having to download an app."
He continued: “Our social media channels will give us feedback, generate stories and ensure relatable content is consistently shared with our viewers. We will listen to our viewers and understand what our online community wants, and use it to help shape our programming.”