Nat Geo Abu Dhabi keeping it local
Why aren’t we producing content in the UAE? “We are!” yells National Geographic Abu Dhabi
September 3, 2014 9:41 by Nadine Sayegh
Content produced in the UAE is not frequently seen on television and we wanted to find out why.
With the first season of ‘I am a Nat Geo photographer’ coming to a close, Kipp sits down with Samer Arzouni, channel manager and executive producer of National Geographic Abu Dhabi, to find out more about the show, and why they chose to produce it locally.
So, why choose this format for the region?
Arzouni tells Kipp: “There are two aspects to this; first of all, reality TV as a genre is picking up a lot of interest with the audience in the region, so it made sense to bring in a format under reality TV. However, we wanted to do something new, we wanted to offer the audience something new – we looked at the hundreds of hours of inventory and the different formats that we have. We found ‘I am a Nat Geo photographer’, which was produced internationally, and it made a lot of sense. It is a reality series based on a photography competition. “
He also tells us that, naturally, the decision was also made to fall in line with the brand identity of National Geographic, which has had a long-time focus on the visual arts.
But why not simply use established Nat Geo content?
Short answer – the viewers were asking for it.
“National Geographic Abu Dhabi is picking up a lot of interest with the audience in the UAE, KSA and North Africa, there are big supporters. Our Facebook page is very interactive; we have about ten million fans and often get requests such as: “Why don’t you start production here using the [region’s] mother tongue, Arabic?” explains Arzouni.
They responded, and their response was well received by the viewership of the region. They were particularly keen on the fact that, while the show was filmed in the UAE, the original language of the series was in Arabic.
Arzouni says: “You connect with them in so many different layers when you speak in the same language, and I don’t see why we have to keep on using international formats without really producing them in Arabic. Again, our culture is so rich, there is a lot to talk about and there are a lot of stories out here.”
It’s safe to say they are happy with their results, as are their hordes of fans that have responded positively to the series.
“We know local programming is going to be the next big move for us,” concludes Arzouni.
Photograph taken by winner of ‘I am a Nat Geo photographer’ – Emilie Houwat