MBC plans pan-network TV streaming site for the Arab world

Rebecca Hawkes | 12-09-2010

Pan-Arab satellite broadcaster MBC is in discussion with other Middle Eastern and global TV studios in order to realise its plans to stream video content from third parties online and on-demand, according to The National.

The Abu Dhabi daily reports that while MBC TV has now become available free-to-air via its Arabic website Shaid.net, the station hopes not only to stream its own content, but also to make its website the Middle East’s equivalent to Hulu, the US service that offers content from ABC, Fox, NBC and others.

“We are trying to make it an independent media platform,” Ammar Bakkar, group director of new media at MBC, told The National. “We’re talking to TV channels who may own their own content, including government TV channels in various Arab countries.

“The aggregated western content – movies, sitcoms and series – are not part of this yet. But we’re in negotiation with some of the American studios we deal with as to how we can approach this,” said Mr Bakkar.

If realised, the other channels and production houses which contribute content to the multi-channel, multi-network streaming website would share the advertising revenues with MBC.

Although discussions have not yet begun, The National reports that MBC is open to content-related talks with the Saudi media conglomerate the Rotana Group - owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, with a 9.1% stake held by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Yahoo Middle East is currently streaming Rotana’s Arabic-language content and providing a ‘watch again’ service, following a deal sealed in July 2010.

A pilot project on MBC’s Shahid.net was launched for Ramadan in the middle of August, featuring third-party content for the first time. Popular MBC shows have been available on Shahid.net since 2007, and plans for more niche programmes are now said to be afoot. The Internet platform has reached four million viewers so far, according to Mr Bakkar, and the main shows are sponsored by advertisers.

MBC was the first pan-Arab free-to-air satellite TV station when it launched in London in 1991.Now based in Dubai, and having added more channels, websites and a production house, it serves around 165 million viewers.