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PRIME TIME: LebaneseTV stations looking forward to Ramadan

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Lebanese TV stations look forward to Ramadan, and prepare for the fierce competition

July 12, 2012 3:00 by

The type of programming doesn’t change much year to year. The grid is led by drama series, in addition to entertainment and game shows, as well as comedy programs. Some flagship pro­grams – mainly Syrian and Turkish drama series – continue from one year to the next, just like what has happened with Bab el Hara, a Syrian series that aired on MBC for five consecutive years (it’s still unknown whether there will be a sixth season in 2012) and gained enormous popularity across the Arab world, reaching 50 million viewers in its second season.

Hayek explains that as media planners, they try to go into the details of the grid to extrapolate insights that are relevant to specific audiences. So media agencies dive into the production details in order to know more about the program – details such as the actors in leading and supporting roles, the script and the script writer(s), the director, the hosts (if it’s an entertainment program), the producers behind the show, and so on and so forth. “We need lots of information and data in order to access the grid and make a decision,” she says.

According to Sfeir, the hero of the Ramadan grid is the Syrian series, although he says that securing Syrian production this year was a chal­lenge given the unstable situation there. “It was much harder this year since we didn’t have a lot of options to choose from – a handful compared to more than 20 last year,” he says, adding that there is also a demand for Turkish and Egyp­tian series, and that the Lebanese production is getting much better.

POWER GAMES. Somehow, it’s no wonder that the top three TV stations during Ramadan 2011 in terms of advertising spending were Al Jadeed, Al Manar ($26,5 million) and Future TV ($14,4 million) consecutively; three media outlets that are politically and geographically positioned to target a more Islamic segment of the Lebanese population. However, they are followed by LBCI ($13,7 million), NBN ($13,4 million), MTV ($12,1 million) and OTV ($10,7 million), according to the Stat Ipsos figures.

Gilbert Zovighian, managing director at Audio Visual Media, the exclusive media representa­tives of LBCI, admits that Ramadan is a tougher month for stations like his than it is for stations like Future TV. And his view is it’s normal, given that the political and religious segmentation in the country runs high. For example, on Future TV and Al Jadeed, the “madfaa” (a jingle signaling the end of the day’s fast and symbolizing the tradi­tional cannon sound calling the faithful) is aired before the fast is broken, while on LBCI it’s not. “Years back, LBCI wasn’t able to compete with Future during Ramadan – Ramadan was Future’s month,” Zovighian says. “We weren’t investing too much in the Ramadan grid. But now we are trying to increase the viewership during this month by increasingly investing in good series,” he adds.

According to Maya Bou Ajram, Levant plan­ning director at OMD Group, programming plays a key role in viewership as people tend to follow the content rather than a specific time segment. She reports three main audience shifts during this period: an increase of viewers aged between four and 14 and between 30 and 39; an increase in fe­male viewership; and an increase in viewership in the south of Lebanon. “While the stations still haven’t announced their Ramadan selection, they are investing more in the quality of programs for this year, since advertisers follow viewership and relevance. If these programs are as good as they are rumored to be, then I expect advertising to increase compared to the previous year,” she says, adding that regardless of the timing, “if a program is good then [people] will try their best to watch it.”

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