Disney Finds New Partners in the Middle East

Blockbuster movies and television series from the Disney media empire will soon be screened free-to-air in the Middle East after a new deal was signed this past month in Dubai. The Disney Company is more than just the Mickey Mouse studio you knew as a kid.  Today, Disney is one of the three largest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world.  The organization owns entities such as ABC television channel, Pixar animation studio, and a host of successful film production houses.

Disney is now partnering with two regional free-to-air channels, Fox Movies and Fox Series, for a period of at least five years. The two free-to-air channels were launched in the past year and are joint ventures between Fox and the Saudi-owned Rotana Group. Rotana is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the billionaire investor who is a major shareholder of both Disney and News Corporation, which is the parent company of Fox. In the last six months, News Corporation has been eyeing investments in Rotana with some reports putting the figure at 10 – 20%.  This most recent deal saw Rotana pay Dhs 100 million to Disney for the rights to screen its content.

The deal means Fox Movies now has the rights to screen films such as There will be Blood, Up, and The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time on free-to-air TV in the region. Fox Series also has the rights to Lost, Ugly Betty, Private Practice and Desperate Housewives and will air the latest seasons exclusively.

Looking at the television market in the Middle East, pay television channels are accessed by less than 5 per cent of the region’s television viewers! Perhaps this is why the free-to-air market is expanding at such a rapid pace.  Nevertheless, don’t throw away those satellite systems just yet; free-to-air still has a long way to go.


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