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COLOGNE, Germany – YouTube has launched a dedicated channel for TV programming aimed at Middle East viewers during the period of Ramadan. The channel, youtube.com/ramadan, will screen more than 50 Ramadan series the same day they air on networks across the Middle East.
Ramadan, which this year runs from July 20 to August 18, is the equivalent of sweeps weeks for Middle East broadcasters. Channels across the region program new series that air for the entire holy month, targetting audiences who traditionally stay home and watch with their extended families. Ratings during Ramadan are higher than at any other period throughout the year. The satellitte TV business earns a major chunk of its revenue – often up to a quarter of annual sales – during the single 30-day period.
YouTube’s Ramadan channel will feature hundreds of episodes of Ramadan shows provided by YouTube’s broadcast partners in the region, including Rotana, CBS-Egypt, Melody and Promo-media. Distribution will be restricted to the site itself, though YouTube will allow users to share shows and comment on them online.
YouTube will split online revenue generated by the site with its network partners. Foods giant Unilever will be the main sponsor of the Ramadan channel, which looks to target fans across the Middle East and further abroad.
The Middle East and North African region is a huge market for YouTube. It is the second largest territory worldwide in terms of views, with an average of 167 million video views a day.
Viewership figures and advertising revenue slipped sharply across the region last year as a result of the Arab Spring uprisings but appears now to be boucing back. TV advertising in Egypt and the Gulf States – which together account for the bulk of TV revenue in the region – was up 15 percent in the first six months of the year, according to Omnicom Media Group.
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