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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

Hayek agrees that people follow the grid. “They would watch the news of the TV channel they are politically affiliated with, but tune into an opposing station to watch its Ramadan drama series. If it’s a successful program, people will follow it; if it’s not they won’t,” she says.

This easily explains why local stations like LBCI are trying to up their ante, despite all the challenges that come with it. Indeed, Zovighian explains that a station’s investment in a Ram­adan grid is so huge that it might not justify all the revenue commercially, compared to other commercially dense seasons like Christmas when a station doesn’t really have to heavily invest in new programming.

“In Ramadan, you must have an entire grid of new programs from 5pm or 6pm all the way until midnight. The competition increas­es, prices of producers increase, and costs of shows shoot up, especially with satellite sta­tions like MBC and Rotana pumping in huge amounts of money in the market,” he says. And it’s a lottery ticket, he adds. “A station could buy a program with a story, cast, and production value that are set to make waves, but then a mid-sized TV station would air a produc­tion that’s unheard of and end up becoming a regional sensation.”

NEW MEDIA. As competition continues to inten­sify, TV channels, whether local or satellite, are trying to exploit various new media formats in order to widen their viewership base, further their Ramadan coverage, and diversify their revenue streams. More and more TVs are turning to the web to take advantage of emerging platforms and allow their audiences to interact and engage with the shows. This is especially evident with satellite stations, such as Rotana and MBC, who have been lining up online distribution of their Ramadan programming. They are also encourag­ing their advertisers to take advantage of such platforms and cross promote via the stations’ different channels.

A report by MEC MENA in 2010 projected that video-on-demand during Ramadan would increase, some programs being missed due to other viewers’ commitments.

In addition, more consumers research Ramadan offers online; send personalized e-cards; source new recipes; browse Islamic websites and download Islamic programs, e-books and content; participate in Ramadan competitions; and read the Holy Quran online.

However, Bou Ajram says that even though more TVs are investing in boosting their online presence, it remains to be seen how much advertisers will be receptive. In fact, LBCI is working on developing the digital extension of its Ramadan grid, but Zovighian says that it is not a very sound commercial investment espe­cially that it’s still not very appealing to advertis­ers. He explains that Ramadan is a communal affair and that families like to unite and gather to watch TV, which kind of invalidates the flexibility and individuality propositions that the web offers.

How will Ramadan play out this year across the different local and satellite stations in Leba­non is completely unforeseeable. What’s cer­tain is that when the crescent moon is sighted in mid-July, the race to entertain a fasting chunk of the Lebanese and Arab population will kick off. The stations that will win the race will be the ones who were strategic, creative, relevant and, well, lucky

By Ibrahim Nehme

*First published on Communicate


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