OSN, the Dubai-based pay TV satellite operator, is expanding its Arabic-language programming, ordering 15 new series for its OSN Ya Hala HD channel. Many of the new programmes witll be scheduled in Ramadan in the second and third quarters of the year.
The new programmes span a variety of genres: reality series, current affairs, talk shows and drama, including a Saudi-produced musical drama, a thriller and a police drama. OSN executives said the company has doubled the provision of drama series filmed in the Gulf States (so-called Gulf dramas, filmed primarily in Kuwait). OSN’s CEO has stated the operator’s commitment to continue its significant investments in Arabic content, talent and production which will significantly boost the region’s television industry.
OSN has also acquired exclusive rights throughout the MENA region, rights to the Netflix-produced House of Cards and the Turkish series Hareem Al Sultan. The first of the new series will premiere this month.
OSN launched OSN Ya’hala HD, its first Arabic channel, in August 2011. It was a bold move, as OSN has built its business to date on English-language content addressed to Western expats. OSN Ya’hala has become the second most watched channel among the more than 110 that the operator is broadcasting. Furthermore, OSN acknowledges that 93% of its new customers are Arabic speakers and about 84% are Arabic speakers.
The expansion of the Arabic content offering is aimed at maintaining subscriber growth and to position the company as the number one destination for premium quality Arabic content in the MENA region. Pay TV is reaching saturation levels in some of OSN’s core markets (85% in the UAE at the end of 2013, 82% in Qatar, and 62% in Kuwait), and it is imperative for the Dubai-based operator to focus on other markets like the Levant (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon) and the Maghreb (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco). Egypt, for instance, is a key market, even taking into account the current political turmoil in the country.
OSN launching a dedicated channel for the Egyptian market called OSN Ya’hala Shabab in January 2013. The channel broadcasts Egyptian dramas and comedies as well as talk shows hosted by Egyptian journalists and TV presenters. In targeting TV markets outside of the Gulf States, OSN is squaring up to MBC, the most successful free-to-air broadcaster in the Arab world. MBC launched MBC Masr, a general entertainment channel aimed specifically at the Egyptian market, in 2012.
MBC has shown that there are benefits for a pan-Arab satellite broadcaster which can localise its TV output to specific territories. More localisation at the content level is, very likely, one of the recipes for OSN's expansion