Similar to the optimists who see opportunity in every difficulty, the media players in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region have kept expanding and growing despite all challenges of a tough economy. Among these, Turner would be a prime example of a player that did not just stay the course but looked to create more for its viewers and partners. And like all things simple, the strategy worked.
Brexit and the US Presidential Elections ensured that Turner, with its brand CNN, stayed busy. But that was not the only serious business on its agenda, as its other brands Cartoon Network and Boomerang sought more ways for keeping its kids’ audience engaged. A big highlight in this was the fruition of the IMG Worlds of Adventure, where Cartoon Network along with Marvel is among the Park’s key partners.
The Cartoon Network Zone at the Park took Ben10 and Power Puff girls on the ground and on screen, Turner strengthened itself with a partnership with BeIN Media Group, one of the largest TV production, distribution and media rights acquisition companies in the region.
Reflecting on the year gone, Tarek Mounir, Vice President and General Manager – MENA, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus at Turner says, “In all aspects, it was a good year for us, wherein the BeIN Group partnership and the theme park’s success contributed. We are very proud of these partnerships. We also grew our channels into dual languages for payTV subscribers and delivered. I believe that even though the overall atmosphere is still testing, 2017 will also be a good year.”
One of the biggest strengths for Turner, according to Mr Mounir, is the fact that it is a content company – an area that has relentlessly become important for all forward looking players in the media, marketing and advertising industry. As a broadcast network, Turner has constantly worked on new products and services, but it is the content card that has helped it sustain growth.
“Being content creators simplifies our job. The media landscape and its consumption patterns are ever-changing. But as content creators, we are positioned to drive that change. When done right, it enables us to sustain both our position and our growth,” Mr Mounir explains.
Local & Relevant
Within its content play, localization has been big on Turner’s agenda in its international markets, MENA included. The dual language offer that Tuner launched last year is one part of this strategy. “Offering multi-language feed has become near mandatory for channels,” asserts Mr Mounir, adding, “Kids’ entertainment, specifically among the pay TV subscribers, continues to rise but it needs us to cater to the various demands that it brings. For instance, penetration in Saudi is increasing but if the channel is not available in Arabic, it can get de-prioritized for the consumers.”
Additionally, Turner also introduced a Hindi channel feed for the South Asian Diaspora across the UAE and GCC, a move soon followed by the likes of Disney. “Pioneering the Hindi language for kids in the region is an important step because we are able to super serve our niche audiences,” he remarks.
Turner has focused on local productions to stay culturally relevant. The Emirati cartoon Mansour, that was conceptualized and developed at the Cartoon Network Studios Arabia in Abu Dhabi, is a case in point. The show is not only seen on TV but is also extended to online, gaming and merchandising.
Instead of dubbing its original shows, Turner adapts them to make it more relevant to the local market. “We have Arabic writers who understand the language and rewrite the stories to make it more relevant. Even the jokes are delivered in a manner that is more comprehensible to kids in the region, which makes significant difference,” Mr Mounir informs.
Among the various genres on the kids’ channels, comedy has been a winner even though it is yet to create product lines like other genres. “Comedy is a very attractive environment for kids but it is not as monetizable as action or adventure outside the TV or in the online space,” Mr Mounir informs. Between Cartoon Network and Boomerang that cater to children aged 2-6 years and 4-14 respectively, Turner’s kids offering in the region aims to be well rounded.
The Network has also worked towards for this multi-platform presence to reflect in its offer to its advertising partners. Over the years, Turner channels have graduated from spot advertising to a more integrated approach in the kids’ genre. “One of our industry roles is that of brand building, and we don’t do this in silos. We are able to partner with our advertisers on air, online, apps, games, on-ground and everything in between offering a more holistic solution,” Mr Mounir points out, an area that he believes is critical in a tough year.
Like most in the industry, Turner and its channels have also braced for impact but with the conviction that maintaining this multi-tier strategy, which has the ability to transcend platforms, screens, language and culture while drawing on partnerships, will hold it in good stead in 2017 as well.