Rotana signs multi-million dollar Disney deal

Rotana has signed an exclusive multi-million dollar five-year content deal with Disney as part of its plans to become the number one broadcaster in the Middle East and North Africa.

The deal, which is between Rotana Media Services and Disney, 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. Lost was previously with MBC, while Dubai Media Inc had the rights to screen Desperate Housewives regionally.

Separately, a third Fox channel, called Fox Life, is to be launched in 2010 and will target female viewers.

Hassan Suleiman, vice president of RMS, which is the sales and promotions arm of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Rotana Group, confirmed the Disney deal: “When we started Fox Movies and Fox Series, people thought we would start with the best content from day one. They thought ‘this is the station’. But we were trying to tell them that this was a soft launch. In order to sign any agreement with any studio worldwide, you have to have an existing channel. Once launched, we signed an exclusive five-year deal with 20th Century Fox, we signed with New Regency, and now we’ve signed with Disney. We’re working on others, which will give us the best content.

“We know exactly where we’re going,” he added. “We know exactly who we have to cater to, and we know exactly what the gaps are in the market. Our aim is to be number one and we’re working towards that.”

Suleiman, who refused to be drawn on the exact monetary figure of the deal, also said further collaboration with Disney, in the shape of creating Arabic versions of Disney’s hit series, is a possibility.

The deal is to be supported by an integrated pan-Arab advertising campaign, which aims to raise viewer awareness of the new content.

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