56 local channels airing Arabian music as well as international numbers by entering into agreements with production houses and other TV networks transformed the Arab culture. One can easily describe Middle East as a region in the process of fast development and cultural change with a rapidly changing political and economic system as stated by Moran, R. T., Harris, P. R. & Moran, S. V. (2007).
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Arabs are Muslims with strong cultural ties with the religion and the holy book, Middle East is way backwards then the west, Arab women wear veils and cover themselves and men wear traditional clothes. Middle East also has politically diverse forms of government, where religion plays the main role in many different ways.
Middle East has entirely different cultural ties then the west like shame and honour, family, socialization and trust. Without doubt, Islam is the dominant characteristic of Arab culture and society and is used to define parameters for much of what constitutes the beliefs and actions in Arab Society. Middle East, delineates a number of features of their culture and society with following social characteristics as noted by Leidner, D. L. & Kayworth, T. R. (2008):
Hierarchical Class Structure
Patriarchal relations, particularly in the family
Primary group relations
Continuing dependency and underdevelopment
Some of the salient features of Arab culture: low hypometropia, at least by the standards of developing nations, and very high monumentalism. Arab monumentalism is strongest in the world and comes together with the lowest suicide rates as noted by Minkow, M. (2011).
Challenges posed to MTV
MTV’s worldwide image adds to everything they do special entering a country with strong cultural and conventional ties. As the information provided special projects manager at trends magazine Dubai explains that MTV is known in the market for inclining towards airing controversial program. Also it is an American brand hence carrying America’s liberal cultural values around the world therefore it will be a challenge for the brand to enter a religious and conservative market and air controversial material.
Strong anti-American sentiments prevalent among a large section of the population, Issues such as US invasion of Iraq and its support to arch enemy Israel had left many Arabs angry consequently presenting another challenge for an American brand.
MTV is a brand of MTV Networks (MTVN) and MTV Arabia launched in 2007 in Middle East was a very challenging step for MTVN, which posed bigger challenges like culturally sensitive environment. The biggest challenge faced was to keep the balance between international quality music and culturally sensitive environment of the region.
Also Middle East is a very highly regulated and complex business arena comparing to the western world and companies had to follow more stringent rules and regulations to operate in Middle East.
Targeting pan-Arab youth audiences were also another challenge posed to the American brand. Young people represent 65 percent of the population in the Middle East, which was also a challenge for MTVN. This large population of youth attracted other local music channels to start operating in the region, even before MTV Arabia’s entrance hence these channels had developed a better understanding of the local audience’s taste and posed a bigger threat to MTVN’s growth in the Middle East. MTV Arabia had to compete with 50 Music Channels operating in Middle East, hence the fierce competition in the market also posed a challenge.
Another challenge posed to MTVN while entering Middle East market was its international reputation of airing sexually explicit and provocative programmes. MTVN also had western values attached with the brand and representing an image of open Western culture, opposite to the socially conservative culture of the Middle East was another challenge for MTV to enter Middle East. MTV had to find a balance between explicit music culture and the conservative social culture in the Middle East.
Cultural differences among Middle East countries were another challenge posed to MTVN. The cultural ties between the countries in Middles East also differ posing another challenge to MTVN. The American managers interacting with managers from the Middle East might misinterpret the late arrival of a potential business partner as a negotiation play or insult, when it is rather a simple reflection of different views of time and its value in the Middle East as noted by Griffin, R. W. (2011).
Also adopting local standards and trying to localize they brand may result in over localization and eventually dilute the brand. Too much localization or personalization can obviously breed logistical chaos and dilute the brand, so customization is usually carried out in clusters using local geographical or lifestyle data as noted by Watson, R. (2010).
MTV’s strategy in Middle East
MTVI had an international strategy of creating joint ventures and contracts with channels already native to a new market. In Middle East MTVN had the same strategy and made a deal with Showtime Arabia as part of the deal Show Time Arabia aired MTV English and Nickelodeon with subtitles in Arabic, which helped introducing the American brand in the market with an already established radio network.
After an introduction of the brand, MTVN later on made ties with local partner (Arab Media Group) AMG as part of their strategy to entry the Middle East market. Later on MTV Arabia was launched by the end of year 2006 joint ventured with Arabian Television Network (ATN). According to the information provided MTV Networks (MTVN) launched MTV Arabia on November 17, 2007, in partnership with Arabian Television Network (ATN).
The core of the MTV strategy was to provide the region with a platform where Arabs can voice their concerns and it would also be an international music platform. Targeting huge youth populace in Middle East was also one of the main constituent of MTV’s strategy to enter Middle East. MTV targeted the youth group of age 12 to 24 and presented itself as a fabric of youth culture.
MTV Arabia involved itself in extensive research of the market and data collection which enabled the channel to respond audience diversity and different cultures. Understanding the next generation was also at the heart of MTVN, for which it had to engage itself in continuous market research, which was one of the characters of MTV’s strategy in Middle East.
MTV also pushed itself as cultural unifying force in a region known for its political tensions. The countries in the Middle East are known for having cross border tensions, MTV Arabia market itself in a way to become unifying force between the Middle Eastern countries with the help of an international platform for music.
MTVN had to face competition from approximately fifty music channels operating in Middle East. They had to come up with a strategy to market them self in the market in a way which will help them attract audience. This strategy was “being unique and different from the existing music channels” choosing differentiation. In differentiation strategies, the emphasis is on creating value through sustainable uniqueness as noted by Harrison, J. S. & John, G. H. S. (2010).
Even after the launch of MTV Arabia they still carried on conquering the market. MTV-AMG launched Nickelodeon Arabia in 2008, as part of the strategy to build a portfolio of integrated kids businesses across the region.
MTV’ Global Expansion Strategy
One of the major steps by MTVN was its first overseas channel in Europe in 1987 and the international arm. International arm MTVI, by the mid-1990’s launched a strategy of “think globally, act locally” and then expanding to MTV Australia, MTV Asia, MTV India, MTV China, MTV Germany and other parts of the world.
MTV Arabia was a part of MTVN’s global expansion strategy the brands known for its global expansion. The core of the global expansion policy was the same slogan “think globally, act locally”. This enabled the brand to conquer international markets like China, Australia and Europe, but Middle East posed a bigger challenge.
In 2006 MTVI served to an audience of one billion and expanded its operations in 179 countries which included operations in Latin America, Europe and other parts of the world.
At one time MTVI operated more than 130 channels, websites along with broadband services in more than 25 languages.
By the end of 2007 MTVI had become the major network of Viacom Inc. with more than 140 channels around the world catering to a potential 1.5 billion viewers globally.
The following table-1 represents their different websites operated by MTV in different parts of the world:
Table – MTV Worldwide Websites
MTV Hits UK & Ireland
MTV Networks Europe
MTV Base UK & Ireland
MTV Idol France
MTV New Zealand
MTV Czech Republic
MTV UK & Ireland
MTV Latin America
MTV Latin America Revolution
Hence shows the strategic management of MTVN to think globally and act locally, catering their website, TV channel and the music according to the requirements and needs of every market. They take each port of the world locally developing different set of strategies for every country with the same core strategy of think globally and act locally.
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MTV’s localization Strategy
A localization strategy could be easily explained as the strategy which emphasizes on increasing profitability by catering the company’s products or services so that they provide a product which is catered to the tastes and preferences of the local market as noted by Hill, C. & Jones, G. R. (2010).
MTV has a different localization strategy for every part of the world, the management at MTV understands the cultural differences across borders and they have a different localization strategy catered to according to the culture of the specific country. The company has different websites for each part of the world they are operating catered to the local culture of the community as shown by table-1.
MTV’s localization strategy also involved tying up with local channels and learning local culture and differences and then over time acquiring local channels. Like in early 2000’s MTV entered Australia and joint ventured with Austereo (commercial radio network in the country and later on acquired Austereo. This strategy is also used in the case of Middle East where MTV used Showtime Arabia before entering the market and aired its reality shows and music with Arabic Subtitle. Later on MTVN joint ventured with AMG to launch MTV Arabia.
MTV Arabia’s localization strategy involves following:
English programs with subtitles in the local language
Arabic version of International Music and Reality Shows
Not to export American Culture
Meeting political and government leaders
MTVN launched programs with subtitles in Arabic with the help of Showtime Arabia and also used the strategy of meeting political figures and higher authorities as they did in China, Israel and Cuba. This strategy always proved successful for MTVN in all their recent entries to all the different parts of the world.
Another major constituent of the localization strategy was not to export American culture helping the brand to fight its American image. To strategically develop products localized to Arab culture MTV Arabia had a decentralized structure with commercial and creative autonomy to the local staff, this enabled MTV Arabia to come up with programs catered to the local culture. MTV Arabia’s launch team had six members and they were Saudis, Palestinians, Emiratis, Iraqis, and Lebanese. This local mix helped MTV Arabia fight their American image and air globally successful music shows but with a local flavour to suit the Arab mindset.
Strategy of providing Mixed Content to the Market
MTV’s mixed content strategy included airing sixty percent international music and forty percent Arabic music, along with the local version of the channel’s popular international non-music shows. Producing at least forty five percent of the content locally was at the heart of MTV’s mixed content strategy.
For the same reason MTV Arabia had a local launch team which produced the local content. MTVN had conducted extensive market research by going to colleges and universities and interviewing higher authorities and parents collecting data vital for the channel to reach its target of producing forty five percent of the content locally.
MTV has used providing mixed content strategy in India and China and other parts of the world as well hence the company already had the expertise of producing mixed content. Decentralization provided exactly what was required for the local market and it had all the ingredients for MTV Arabia to be successful in Middle East.
MTV and its Success in Middle East
MTV’s extensive experience in the global market enables them to cater their localization strategy and provide localized material which will certainly help MTV Arabia to be successful in the market as the Middle East market has youth as the major portion of the market. MTV Arabia targeting youth and actively engaging youth by providing them a platform to voice their concerns and to promote Arabian music is all what is required a market like Middle East.
Another major reason for MTV Arabia’s success would be its image in the market, during data collection MTVN discovered that majority of the respondents thought that MTV was an Indian or European brand. Hence brand does not have to work as much as was the gimmick in the market that MTVN is an American brand and it will have to face tough cultural complexities in the market. The local launch team has provided answers to all such questions and now the brand is as localized as it could be.
MTVN conducted surveys targeting the 18 to 24 age group and travelling around the Middle East to schools and university campuses for data collection, qualitative data also collected by interviewing figures of authority and elderly people, including speaking to government leaders and parents which will be a major reason for channels success in the Middle East
Respecting Arab traditions and showing no disrespect to the local culture also providing a platform for Arab Music and culture is another factor in the success of MTV Arabia.
Encouraging education and looking for solutions to problems like unemployment was another factor in the success of MTV Arabia and will help in future. Such initiatives help sending a positive signal about the brand in the market and the audiences starts accepting an relating themselves with the brand, which will be a major factor in success of MTV in the Middle East.
All the international programmes which are aired by MTV Arabia are edited to cater cultural needs and requirements, music videos and reality shows are also edited to ensure they are aligned with the cultural ethos prevailing in the Middle East. All these factors helped MTV Arabia to be more localized and exceptive for the Muslim audience in Middle East.
Too much localisation can dilute the brand MTV Arabia kept the balance in not to dilute the brand entirely by keeping sixty percent of the content international. This strategy also proved vital and it also incorporated respecting local cultures without diluting the brand.
MTV Arabia focused on providing the youth with a platform where they can voice their concerns and also show their music talent was something which will help the brand to be successful in the Middle East Market.
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