A Case Study on MTV Operations in the Arab World


Cultural Challenges

MTV, which in full stands for Music Television, is an American origin entertainment company that was started in 1981. At the time of its launch, this company’s services included only heavy metal and rap music, targeting most young Americans aged between 12 and 24 years. In the pursuit of growth and development, MTV started international ventures launching its first international channel in 1986, in Europe. As a result of the success in Europe, the “Think Globally, Act Locally” strategy was established, and as a result the company extended its services by launching MTV Australia, MTV Asia, MTV India, and MTV China among others. It is under the same strategic expansion motives that MTV Arabia was launched, towards the end of the year 2007.

However, unlike in the previous ventures, experts felt that the cultural background in this new target market would pose as a key challenge towards the establishment and development of successful business for MTV in Arabia. To start with, the Arabian target market incorporated nations such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, Yemen, Qatar, Syria and Palestine. The Arabic culture present in all these countries is characterized by distinct aspects of social conservation. There are numerous sub-groups of individually conservative groups apparent in each of these countries.

In each of this different social set ups, strict ways of life are observed. The religious practices are stipulated and emphasized differently. General social expectations are underlined in various different ways. In light of this, something could be strictly forbidden in one Arabic nation, while at the same time accepted in another. This strong socially conservative nature of the Arabic communities is one of the cultural challenges outlined by the experts as far as the launch of MTV Arabia is concerned.

The extent of the challenge with respect to the above challenge posed by the social dynamics of the Arabic communities can be illustrated as follows. For the venture of MTV Arabia to be successful, the company needed to identify a unifying factor that would attract all the sub-communities across the entire Arab world. It would be necessary to establish a common strategy that would serve the needs of all the different social communities across the entire region.

In addition to the cultural challenge resulting from the existence of the many socially conservative sub-groups in the Arab world, the general cultural practices in the Arab nations are completely different from what MTV is based upon. The communities incorporated in the Arab nations exist in a cultural background where all actions are based on the religious provision of Islam. On the other hand, MTV is American based and as a result its contents represent the Western culture which bears no such religious background whatsoever. This means that, the content in MTV channels would really come into conflict with what the Arabic culture stands for. MTV is famous for its tendency to air provocative and sexually explicit contents. This represents the Western culture that greatly differs from the Arabic culture. The cumulative effects of the above factors forced the experts to express the cultural dynamics in Arabia as the major challenge facing the launch, establishment and success of MTV Arabia.

Market Entry Strategy Analysis

According to the analysis of experts, MTV Arabia stood out as the largest launch as far as the history of MTV Networks is concerned. To start with, the Arabian target market comprises of audience in over about twenty nations in the entire Arab region consisting mostly of North Africa and the Middle East. All these countries share a common language. According to the management in the MTV headquarters, the launch of MTV Arabia was aimed at meeting the needs of majority average Arabs. In light of this, reaching out to them was the key strategy necessary for successful market penetration.

As a key entry strategy, together with the launch of MTV Arabia, an Arabic and English website was launched to complement the television channel through providing the users in the new market with an extra variety of interactive elements in the online community. This created a platform for the Arabic audience to exchange ideas about the new television channel. Through the information collected and analyzed from the resulting interactions and feedbacks with respect to MTV Arabia, appropriate changes were implemented thereby resulting into quick and effective improvement of channel content and as a result increasing the levels of acceptability by appealing to more people.

Another market entry strategy was based on the composition of its channel content. As aforementioned, the background of MTV is characterized by the pop Western culture which differs a lot with the religiously based Arabic culture. As a result, establishing its television channel without respective adjustment would result to poor results. In line with these expectations, a mixed-content strategy was put into action. The provisions of this strategy included basically showcasing both international and local music at the ratios of 60% and 40% respectively. More so, about half of the Arabian content was set to be produced locally, with the remaining undergoing translation. The rationale behind this mixed strategy was ensuring that the content packaging, the language, and the attitude reflect on the local settings across the Arabian region. The mixed strategy also set on integrating a mix of music videos, reality shows, documentaries, animations, and dramatic series. Essentially, the mixed strategy is a technique for market penetration aimed at first creating cultural unification in a region characterized by intense political tensions between the Arabs and the Western countries especially the United States, which is the origin of the MTV Networks.

The above entry strategies deployed by MTV improved the chances for easy market penetration. To start with, the website integrating Arabic and English translation features is a smart way to ensure that the new audience is availed with correct information, while at the same time correctly submitting valuable feedback. Language barrier, which could have posed as a significant challenge towards the establishment of MTV Arabia is completely addressed through the incorporation of the complementary bilingual website in support of MTV Arabia. In addition, the mixed-content strategy surfaces as a genius market penetration technique. It helps to bridge the existing gap between the Western and the Arabic culture. Although it would be easier for MTV to continue channeling its usual content, high instances of resistance would face its launch in an Arabic setting. Therefore, through the incorporation of local content in MTV Arabia channels, the chances of resistance are reduced, thereby increasing the ease in market entry and penetration.

Case Follow up

MTV Arabia is currently in its seventh year of operation in the Arabian frontier. With a market share of over two billion people across the world, the MTV Network comprising of channels in various global locations considers MTV Arabia as a successful venture contributing towards a significant amount of the entire revenues for the international company. More specifically, like it has happened in other parts of the world, MTV Arabia has helped towards giving a voice to the young and the youthful population across the entire Arab world.

MTV Arabia has extended its services through the introduction of several other complementary features. In 2008 for example, it introduced the first free airing channel dedicated to meet the requirements of Arabic children. This was established under the Nickelodeon Arabia brand and it was aimed at achieving the channel’s strategy towards building a foundation for integrating businesses for kids across the region. Through the launch and establishment of the Nickelodeon Arabia, its wide and diverse economic strategy has created a platform where various kid-oriented income generating projects have been established including: digital media, fast moving consumer goods, hotels and other food joints, as well as theme parks.

The success of the company’s entry into the Arabian market has also earned it good partnership deals. MTV has been able to partner with local firms thereby gaining extra credibility and acceptability among the locals, which is one of the aspects localization strategies seek to attain. In light of this, experts and analysts have reported the penetration of MTV Arabia even in the small cities across the entire Arabian frontier. In addition, before the launch of MTV Arabia, there were a numerous television channels broadcasting in the region. However, none of them provided a global platform with which the Arabia youth could export their talent. MTV Arabia has however been successful in doing this. Through their network, various platforms have been created through which the Arabia youth, representing over 65% of the total population can now air and showcase their talents globally.

The success of this company in the Arabian market has greatly benefited from its entry strategies. The Arabian market provided a favorable demographic set up to launch such services. By introducing international brands of music, the success has grown as a result of balancing the international content with local content. This mixed-content strategy has led towards success since it respects the cultural sensitivity of the Arabian cultural environment. The television channel also diversified the content for its audience including documentaries, interviews, comedy and dramatic series, reality shows and animated programs to the special product it is known for; music videos.

The only thing it should have improved is the ratio of local content in the mixed-content strategy, interchanging to 60% for local content and 40% towards international content since it would have quickened the penetration efforts. However, there is still room for more improvement. There are a number of recommendations towards the expansion of this television channel. MTV Arabia should consider increasing its support in the Arabic music industry, continue to respect the local cultural aspects, and expand its content towards a broader target of social classes. In so doing, it will continue to successfully exist in the Arabian market.

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