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Surely we should be watching less and not more television during Ramadhan
TV channels splash the cash ahead of peak Ramadan viewing
As Ramadan approaches and business in the UAE winds down, one sector is gearing up for the busy season - TV.
Across the Arab world, eyes turn to the picture box for special drama, comedies and game shows tailored to the Holy month and those who provide the entertainment hold their breath as significant investments come to realisation."In-home viewing goes up from an average yield of four and half hours a day of TV viewing to six to seven hours a day TV viewing," said Mazen Hayek, MBC's group director of marketing, PR and commercial.
"So it's true that all year long TV is the favourite national sport of the Arab family - the virtual family member of the Arab family - but in Ramadan it becomes more so."
Investment poured into Ramadan productions mirrors this.
"Ramadan for us is the peak [not just] in terms of rating but in terms of commercial revenues and in terms of investments," said Hayek.
"I would give a percentage of 25 to 30 per cent of the total production investment and of advertising revenues to that month. So you take 75 per cent of your investments in programming and of your income from advertising and divide them over 11 months."
Of course, Arab family lifestyle changes dramatically during Ramadan beyond watching more TV. Unlike Christmas in the West, entertainment interests swing away from Hollywood blockbuster movies towards cultural interest, locally inspired comedy and drama and religious shows.
"That change in media consumption habits and patterns and duration affects the way people consume other channels," said Hayek, referring to Western-dominated content.Many of these are series which play out over the month, particularly the drama, as they are synonymous with family and societal values. MBC broadcasts to more than 300 million viewers, across North Africa and the Middle East, says Hayek, and each evening's order of play is carefully thought out, around "subjects that fall under the mood of Ramadan".
"A typical night would start with comedy while people are having Iftar, then another comedy, then you move to a huge line-up of top-rated dramas. Then typically a game show."
Key to capturing and keeping viewers' loyalty during the month is making sure the dramas are gripping from the start. Then hopefully the routine nature of Ramadan will do the rest.
"We know people will tune in from Iftar time. Ramadan is synonymous to pattern. Once you establish the first week of viewing, that's the month. If you get hooked onto a series or into a programme during the first three days of Ramadan, you're on with it until the end of the month."
Established in 1991 in London, MBC Group that currently broadcasts on eight channels were the first pan-Arab free-to-air channel. Hayek says MBC are market leaders in the Arab world, and competitors will try to fit their schedules around the Group's programming.
"The whole industry waits for MBC to announce its Ramadan grid and its timing to schedule accordingly," he said. "We rarely announce the timings of our programmes during Ramadan because we know people will tune in from Iftar time."
Despite Ramadan falling in the summer this year, with longer daylight hours pushing Iftar back, Hayek is adamant that this will not affect viewer numbers.
"Ramadan by itself is a season. So it won't be affected when it falls in the year. If it falls in August or if it falls in December or if it falls in January - it's a tiny little detail.
"Viewing will be the same, ratings will be the same, people's lifestyles will be practically the same and advertisers' endorsements and the connections between brands and consumers via TV will also be the same."http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/09/08/13/10339783.html