By Jonathon Savill
Investors behind free-to-air TV channel hope to see ROI within three and a half years
Investors behind Zee Alwan, a new Arabic free-to-air television channel launched in Dubai on Sunday, aim to see a return on their US$100m investment within three-and-a-half years.
Zee Alwan was launched by Zee Entertainment Enterprises, a subsidiary of Essel Group, a leading Indian business conglomerate involved in packaging. Zee already broadcasts 52 channels, reaching more than 650m people in 168 countries.
The latest channel will focus on reality, cookery, travel, yoga and health and is largely aimed at female Arab audiences aged between 20 to 45-years old.
Available on frequency 12417 on Nilesat and 12111 on Arabsat, it could reach over 44m households across the Gulf.
Zee Alwan follows in the footsteps of Zee Aflam, a 24/7 movie channel that broadcasts Bollywood movies dubbed into Arabic. The backers plan to launch a further three channels by 2017 and anticipate they will turn a profit within three-and-a-half years.
Patrick Samaha, vice president, sales and marketing at Zee Aflam, said that the new channel will offer more than 180 hours of Arabic content a month. He added that he expected Indian programming to have a broad appeal among Arab audiences, partly due to their shared culture. "At the end of the day all cultures are similar and India and the Arab world share many cultural similarities," Samaha said.
Zee, founded in 1982, said gross advertising income increased 77 percent in the last three years, producing revenue of US$563.06m for 2012. The broadcaster also showed a 20.6 percent rise in net profits to US$28m.
Zee owns a library of over 100,000 hours of television content and the rights to more than 3,000 movies titles, making it the world’s largest producer of Hindi-language television content.
With the average viewer in Saudi Arabia watching 328 minutes television a day, according to Zee, executives hope to leverage this back catalogue to carve out a sizeable market share for the new channel in the region. The Arab world is hungry for content and has a strong appetite for Bollywood movies, said Mukund Cairie, Zee’s CEO Middle East region.
All programmes reflect the sensitivities of Arab audiences, especially women, Zee said. The channel has several Arab female presenters for its shows.
Cairie added: "The launch of Zee Alwan sets a new benchmark for the Arab television industry, as it focuses on offering wholesome family entertainment."