How the television industry operates can make for compelling viewing and give rise to animated discussions.
Does pay-per-view trump all other delivery forms in getting a committed viewership base? Or is free-to-air still the way for a broadcaster to go about building an audience and, by extension, bring in the advertising dollars?
The industry can generate enough twists and turns that would do the best police shows on TV proud. In the Middle East, it has been quicker on the rebound following the downturn and is pulling in some impressive dollar numbers going by recent data.
That would give the folks at Fox International channel's regional operations enough cause for cheer.
A relatively recent entrant into the region's free-to-air market, the News Corporation owned entity is now checking out the air waves for further growth possibilities.
Rohit D'Silva, general manager for the Middle East and North Africa territory, offers an update.
Gulf News: Isn't there a sentiment that Fox International channel should speed up the expansion of its channel offerings for the region? As things stand now, is there anything in the works?
Rohit D'Silva: We debuted in the Middle East free-to-air market (FTA) in 2008 and in a vast, competitive and cluttered market such as the Mena region, we have taken on the strength of some established and reputed players. By no stretch of imagination can this be considered a small accomplishment.
We launched two flagship entertainment channels in the FTA satellite space with Fox Movies and Fox. In 2009, we launched a fully Arabic dubbed factual entertainment channel ‘National Geographic Abu Dhabi in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media.
That's not all; today our entertainment channel Fox is equipped with dual audio, providing viewers with the benefit of watching programmes either in English or Arabic.
Having said that, we are looking at consolidating our position in the Middle East, and going forward we hope to launch more channels in the entertainment space.
Is there a chance that you would look to create a mix of channels those available as FTA and some requiring subscriptions? Wouldn't that work well and be a more attractive vehicle for advertisers?
Fox International Channel as a channel group, and in the region, already provides a bouquet of channels both on free-to-air and subscription spaces.
Through pay TV, our channels such as National Geographic HD, Nat Geo Wild HD, Star Movies and Fox Sports are available across platforms like OSN, AD Sports, du, etc.
Unlike other markets, the Middle East has thriving free-to-air television as well as pay TV space.
We ventured with a partner, Rotana, to bring quality home entertainment with flagship brands Fox Movie and Fox.
FIC is about pure entertainment offerings. Would the mix be changed to include other possibilities such as news, since you could call upon your association with Fox News and BskyB?
Fox International Channel is known for the strength and quality of its entertainment channels. Our focus has, and will continue, to be on providing home entertainment across genres.
We don't have any plans to enter any other space.
The last two years have been exceptionally tough for terrestrial and satellite channels in terms of advertising revenues.
How would you place FIC's performance in this context? Has the recent situation in the region impacted your first-quarter revenues?
I would be lying if I say otherwise. We entered the market in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis where organisations were cutting back on advertising spending.
Given the fact that we were new brands to advertisers and marketers, it was even more difficult. However, I guess our strong fundamentals in focusing on a channel proposition has been paying off. Over the last three years, more and more local as well as international brands are advertising with us and contributing to our steadily growing ad revenues.
Properties like the Academy Awards has not only fuelled [viewership] to our channels but has made advertisers take note of the value proposition that we bring to the table.
This year we had eight brands sponsoring our month of the Academy Awards in March.
You already have rights to the 20th Century and Disney libraries. Are more such studio associations possible?
We currently have deals with all the major studios Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, Sony, Warner Brothers, and New Regency. However, the deal with Twentieth Century and Disney is to have exclusive first run movies and series titles on
free-to-air satellite television.
There is every possibility that we will be looking at more such associations.
The impression is that satellite channels always have first rights to movie premieres and FTA suffers in comparison.
Is that a valid sentiment?
This is true for the most part. Although, as far as movies are concerned, viewers are more apprehensive about whether the title is an exciting or a mediocre movie.
Case in point, titles like Titanic or Pirates of the Caribbean are box-office hits, and you could watch them repeatedly as opposed to a dull movie, which you're positive you won't watch again.
From / Gulf News