Nick Arabia toons up for Middle East

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MTV Networks International and Arab Media Group, the largest media group in the United Arab Emirates, said Tuesday that they are joining forces to launch Nickelodeon Arabia.

The pact will see the launch of a localized, Arabic-language free-to-air channel dedicated exclusively to children across the Middle East.

The companies claim that Nickelodeon is the first global kids' media brand to create a free-to-air Arabic service across the region with local cultural values taken into account. AMG's TV broadcasting arm also incorporates the soon-to-launch MTV Arabia.

The 24-hour Nick channel, slated to launch in 2008, will broadcast via satellite to 36 million TV households, with a potential audience of 190 million people across the region, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, the parties said.

Programming will include some Nickelodeon shows and original local Arabic productions.

Said Bhavneet Singh, managing director and senior vp emerging markets at MTVNI, "The launch of Nickelodeon Arabia is a part of our wider, ongoing multiplatform strategy encompassing consumer products, digital media, hotels and theme parks, which we hope will establish Nickelodeon as the premier destination for kids in the region."

MTV Networks vice chairman Bill Roedy described the launch as "a significant milestone in (MTV) history."

"The Middle East is a dynamic, thriving market with vast growth opportunities," he said, "and we look forward to launching even more MTVNI brands and businesses through our successful partnerships with AMG and TECOM Investments."

Arab Media Group CEO Abdullatif Al Sayegh said there was a niche in the region for "quality children's programming."

"Nickelodeon will provide the best in world-standard entertainment for children," he said, "raising standards in the region and setting a strong precedent for the future."

The partnership between AMG and MTVNI Emerging Markets signals the next step in establishing a multibrand, multiplatform MTVNI portfolio across the Middle East.

MTV Arabia is set to launch next month in partnership with AMG.

The launch of Nickelodeon Arabia follows the recently inked long-term partnership between Al Ahli Group and Nickelodeon that will add Nickelodeon and such properties as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Diego to the Al Ahli Park development in Dubai.
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