Team TMN catches up with Reim El Houni, Managing Director of Ti22 Films, who offers an insight into the upcoming launch of Ti22 Film’s online channel Dubai ON Demand, set to go live early this year…
Where did the concept for Dubai ON Demand originate?
I have spent a few years visiting the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in the US as well as watching industry trends from abroad, and could see the focus on digital was increasing year on year. Over the last couple of years in particular, original content online has started to become more mainstream with players like Netflix and Amazon. What I found even more interesting was watching how YouTube acted as an equaliser with a very low barrier for entry, allowing anyone to put content out there. There has been a big shift in viewing patterns generally with audiences preferring to access content anytime online, so YouTube felt like the place to be. It’s still an untapped market in the MENA region, but I know that it’s just a matter of time.
I’ve been very impressed with a number of online channels and concepts from the US in particular, and feel that it’s time this region aimed for that. So that’s the next goal. I also believe in signs, and although this was something I had started speaking with people about a while ago, the changes at Dubai One were a catalyst, reaffirming that this was the right time with the right team.
Tell us a little more about what we can expect to see on Dubai ON Demand…
You can expect to see a bit of everything! Although predominantly lifestyle, we will be happy to explore niche programming as well. We have a range of shows at the moment from makeup tips and how-to guides with Aishwarya, to adrenaline-fuelled experiences with Layne, celebrity specials with Dina and comedy news round ups with Nitin. When reviewing all the possible shows we could have done, it came down to what everyone was most passionate about. I believe that if you are passionate about something then you are going to do everything you can to make it work, so I am glad to say we have a team who are each presenting shows they really care about.
Dubai ON Demand is set to go live on YouTube. Why do you think launching an entertainment channel online will be more successful than launching through traditional channels?
I think anyone who is in touch with viewing trends knows that audiences are primarily watching content online than on traditional channels. In the US this will be the first year that online viewing actually surpasses TV viewing. Online viewing is also up by 250% compared to this time last year. Regionally, Saudi Arabia is the largest consumer of You Tube content globally! As well as all this, we have conducted our own research on where marketers are spending their budgets and they are all shifting towards digital, as the ROI is much clearer than an ad spot on TV. I have seen this shift through my own company and clients over the last year in particular; so online is the place to be!
You have a number of well-known personalities from regional media that will be collaborating with the channel. How did this come about?
Once I had decided that this was the time for the project, I contacted the team, gave them an idea of what I wanted to work on and asked if they would be interested in exploring it with me. Fortunately they all said yes! We met several times where I shared some of my learning and talked through the vision of the project. I’m very keen to develop a channel of high standard that is as interactive as possible and build a community. We are only as good as our last show and only as good as people think we are, so it really is about involving the public as much as possible. As I had worked with many of the presenters before in the capacity of an Executive Producer, an element of trust was already there and many of them are close friends. Our core team also reached out to a few more personalities who we felt could add value and be a great fit. It’s an exciting, diverse group and I think will be a great team to deliver some interesting and fun content.
Who will Dubai ON Demand be aimed at?
All of our content is in English and focused on the expat community, specifically in Dubai. Having said that, many of our shows have a much more general and wider reach and by being online our content is available for anyone to watch globally. I would say we cover a wide age range with some shows appealing to a younger group, possibly as young as late teens and some probably appealing to an older demographic. We will be putting some niche content out there which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s fine. I am quite happy for Dubai On Demand to become a channel of niches; looking into content that local TV wouldn’t necessarily create shows for.
Will there be advertising opportunities with the channel, and if so, how can agencies get in touch?
Yes there will be. We are currently speaking with a number of potential sponsors who are interested in getting involved with the channel. We welcome opportunities to speak with brands and agencies who are interested and we are exploring all suggestions, from product integration to potentially custom producing certain shows. As well as this, we will be offering more traditional advertising options. Agencies can contact firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to explore advertising opportunities with Dubai On Demand.
How can PRs get involved?
Our team has great relationships with PR companies, and we want to build on those and develop even stronger ties. Our aim is to be the must-watch channel for Dubai, so for that to happen we need to make sure our content is up to date and our cameras and presenters in all the right places. So, we encourage PR companies to get in touch and let us know what’s new! We do want to ensure that the content is a natural fit for our shows and we still prioritise the audiences viewing experience, but if the content will add value, then there is a lot of opportunity there. We would also love to give viewers access to exclusive events and celebrities in town, so we’re interested in everything that’s new and exciting in Dubai.
As Dubai ON Demand aims to fill the gap left by the closure of Dubai One, do you have any specific plans to attract Dubai One’s TV audience digitally?
To be honest, I think it will happen naturally. Our goal is to create interesting, fun content, and get viewers and the audience involved in ensuring we are producing what they want to see. That’s a general strategy to attract an audience and in time I am sure the Dubai One audience will find us too.
The launch of this channel will surely set trends in the UAE – are there any plans to expand Dubai ON Demand?
I’m a believer in having big goals, continually striving for them and setting new ones. Having said that, I don’t think we should run before we can walk. The next year is about getting Dubai On Demand out there and ensuring our content is as strong as it can be. Dubai on Demand is very scalable and although we are starting with nine personalities and shows, we have brainstormed over 30 others, so once our foundation is solid, there is definitely scope for the channel to grow.
What can we expect to see next from Ti22 Films?
Our mainstream business – producing films for corporates and broadcasters – is still going strong and we have plans to expand our team and offerings especially with the whole shift in the market towards digital. We hope to stay active on the international festival scene as well, but Dubai On Demand is a big part of our focus for the next year. We have a few other ideas up our sleeve but also believe we need to take one step at a time… so watch this space!