Kids’ television channel Cartoon Network is in talks with at least three Middle East production studios to buy up homegrown shows ahead of the launch of its Arabic-language network later this year, Arabian Business has learnt.
The deals will build on existing signings with Dubai’s Lammtara studios, the producers behind Freej, and Jordan’s Rubicon, the makers of animated show Ben & Izzy, said a senior executive at Turner Broadcasting, which owns the network.
“We are talking to three or four others who are already producing content in the Middle East. I’m expecting those deals to happen within the next quarter. They would be broadcast within three to six months, once the deal is signed,” said Chris Groves, senior vice president of business affairs and managing director for the Middle East.
“We’re looking at all stages of the life-cycle. We’re really just looking for great ideas that can be developed.”
The network is already in talks with Rubicon to broadcast a second show, he said.
“We’re also talking to Rubicon about Tareq Wa Shireen, which is another one of theirs. It’s more of a preschool educational series but it’s very, very good.”
The free-to-air network, which is scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter, will broadcast 24-hour Arabic-language coverage of popular children’s shows including Ben 10, Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory.
More than half of the channel’s content will eventually be sourced from local production studios, Grove said.
“I think at least 50 maybe 60 percent [of shows broadcast on the channel] will be homegrown content,” he said. “We’re actually getting an awful lot of interest from local talent which is exactly what we’ve hoped for. I think deals are going to be happening very naturally.”
Turner is expecting a portion of its new content to be sourced from the branded animation academy it is launching in partnership with Abu Dhabi’s state-backed twofour54.
“This is where I think the twofour54 deal really comes in – to develop new content,” Grove said.
“As and when great ideas come out of the academy and they will, then twofour54 will make a contribution to a pilot. We then can buy and broadcast it.”
The academy is due to launch in September. The Cartoon Network will be broadcast from Dubai into an estimated 35 million homes across the region, and represents a multimillion-dollar investment for Turner.
“I think there is a big gap in kids entertainment [regionally] and not just TV but other areas of entertainment. Looking at the demographics, there is an awful lot of young people and there is room for us to really change things. But one size does not fit all – we will have to change and adapt the way we do business and take local content,” said Grove.
“We’re constantly told the advertising on kids’ channels here is tiny, it’s in its infancy, but that is something we would aim to develop. I think there is real scope for it to grow.”