Has the MTV Generation grown up and switched off?

MTV’s audience in the US is on the slide, but Robert Bakish, president and CEO of parent company Viacom International Media Networks, says the 32 year-old network’s future growth lies in tapping into the potential of emerging markets such as the Middle East

“[MTV India] is an example where we decided to focus on it three to five years ago because we believe in its potential in terms of the number of households, GDP growth and the fact they have an established television market.

The Indian launch is a joint venture between Viacom, IndiaCast and Indian broadcaster TV18. Its regional advertising sales are handled by IndiaCast’s Dubai office and the launch was IndiaCast’s second venture in the region, having launched Hindi entertainment outlet COLORS in September 2010.

MTV India is primarily aimed at young adults aged fifteen to 34, with a collection of music programming, talk shows, fashion and style shows, Bollywood-style comedy shows and adventure shows.

“We made major investments there and today we have one of the top diversified Indian media entertainment companies in film and television. [The Middle East] market over time has similar potential,” says Bakish.

“It has some challenges in that it doesn’t have what India had at the time and that was a really established market. There are some players but the ad market is a little opaque. It is a little harder to get things going here but there is clearly an opportunity.”

The success of MTV India in its home territory eventually led to Viacom seeking to tap into the lucrative Indian expatriate market in the Middle East and in August 2012 it launched the channel across the region from a base in Dubai.

Bakish says he is eager to unlock similar potential for its English and Arabic versions in the Gulf. “We have been in the region for a while… We survived, like everyone, in the downturn but we do have a 24-hour MTV feed out of Dubai and we also syndicate programming to MBC and Nickelodeon. I am confident with attention we will figure it out.”

According to research firm Informa Telecoms & Media, there are nearly 80 million TV households in the Middle East and North Africa, while industry reports predict ad spend growth in the region is set to grow by 5.8 percent in this year. In order to be a success, Bakish says his team needs to unlock both audience ratings and advertising revenue in order to gain a greater share of the market.

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