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

“You need both to have a sustainable presence over time. We are looking at ways to bring various formats [to the Middle East]. We would love to do local versions of other formats. We have done [US teen skills show] ‘Made’ here in the past and we’d like to do more of that. Ultimately, there is clearly a local production opportunity and the challenge is getting a model together that supports ongoing vitality of it.”

Like its regular TV viewing figures, the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards — the network’s biggest event — also suffered ratings woes and saw its audience in the US dip from 12.4 million in 2011 to just 6.1 million last year.

Despite this, Bakish believes large-scale MTV-branded events could still prove to be a catalyst to stimulate growth in emerging markets and he would be eager to leverage their marketing potential by staging a major regional awards show in the UAE.

“I would love to do a big event here,” he says energetically, but adds it is dependent on how fast the company can increase its presence in the regional television market.

“I think it would make more sense here if we had a broader, decent business base but you look at a city like Dubai or Yas Island, there is the potential to do something there, whether it is around music or fashion… We would love to do it.”

According to the Pan-Arab Research Council (PARC), advertising growth over the last year has been led by a handful of markets, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, with Saudi Arabia likely to record growth of eleven percent this year.

It is therefore no surprise that MTV India is also looking to expand into the Saudi Arabian market and tap into both a lack of competition in the sector and the presence of a largely untapped Indian expatriate population.

Anuj Gandhi, group CEO of operator IndiaCast, says while Dubai will remain the company’s main sales hub it is looking to appoint sales representatives for the kingdom.

“I don’t think it will require us to open offices but if it makes business sense of course we could have reps… Saudi is a market you could probably look at a rep… If it makes sense we will not say no,” he says.

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