Cartoon Network Arabia opens Dubai hub

US-owned channel hunting for production deals; mulling new Middle East offices
By Shane McGinley
Wed 06 Oct 2010 12:08 PM

Cartoon Network Arabia, the kids’ animation channel, is scouting for partnership deals with regional producers in a bid to bolster its local content, its managing direction said on the eve of the network’s launch in Dubai.

The children’s TV animation channel, which is owned by US-based Turner Broadcasting Systems (TBS), the cable TV arm of media giant Time Warner, will launch its Dubai office in the emirate’s Media City Wednesday evening.

“I have been saying publicly that we are very interested in meeting production companies. We acquire content on one or two year deals and that has always been a part of our ambition,” said Alan Musa, vice president and general manager of TBS in the Middle East and Africa.

“We have been approached by quite a few companies, but we are going to engage with these guys as soon as possible. At the end of the day, if it is good content and a great idea and we feel it would work with Cartoon Network Arabic, then we will work together.”

Though Cartoon Network airs currently in the Middle East, today's launch marks the network's first dedicated, free-to-air Arabic-language channel. The network is a bid to capitalise on the MENA region’s 35 million households. Musa said.

At launch, the network will air a range of US imported cartoons dubbed in Arabic. The team has a development budget in place for new deals, Musa said.

TBS has already inked two deals with local animation houses; Dubai’s Lammtara, the makers of popular 3D animation series Freej, and Jordan’s Rubicon, the production studio behind shows Ben and Izzy and Tareq Wa Shireen.

TBS is poised to start shooting a local version of its kids’ show, Skatoony, that will feature the characters from Freej alongside a number of live actors.

 “We will film that here and production starts fairly soon. We are working with a local production company and all the kids will be recruited from here, auditions will be here, we will film here and the animation will be superimposed,” Musa said.

Earlier this year, TBS announced plans to set up the Cartoon Network Animation Academy in partnership with Abu Dhabi state-backed firm twofour54. TBS is expecting a portion of its new content to be sourced from the academy.

If the network is a success, Musa said it will also consider launching more Arabic versions of its channels and opening additional operational hubs in the Middle East.

“Places like Cairo are real production hubs. Places like Abu Dhabi or Jordan there, is a lot of creativity coming out so, hypothetically, we could [open more regional offices]. CNN has been here for quite a while, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I suppose if there is a creative hub where we can make content then there are opportunities,” he said.

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