The United Nations of Television
April 18, 2007 2:49 PM
CANNES. Welcome to the United Nations. With cruise ships docked offshore and a sliver of silvery beach covered by sun worshipping tourists, this is a far cry of the East River in the mid-40s. But this week, the Palais may as well be the Secretariat for the United Nations of Television.
What most Americans don’t understand is how much programming exists that they have never heard of. After a stroll through the aisles, where companies cluster roughly by country of origin, you feel like we’ve been on a round-the-world-cruise.
Despite the polyglot of languages spoken across the hall, the lingua franca is English.
Despite the myriad of languages comprising the soundtrack of the programs on offer, the visual storytelling power of TV is the common thread that reminds you how we are more alike than different.
The big announcement for Voom HD Networks here is a deal to launch the first high definition channel in the Middle East. Our partner is Orbit Communications, the leading DBS platform serving 23 countries across North Africa and the Middle East.
While conservative government-controlled broadcast television is still the norm on the Arab “street”, satellite delivered TV is much like what Americans have come to expect from a 250-channel universe. Movies, music, drama and other artifacts of western culture are all available, along with an enormous amount of Arabic programming produced by Orbit itself.
And Orbit subscribers watch a lot of television. The most startling fact is that with the enormous oil wealth enjoyed by many countries in the region the average length of the workday is measured in MINUTES rather than hours. Michael Johnson, Orbit’s EVP, says that for Kuwaiti nationals the average workday is just 8 minutes! (Lots of people not working at all and some working a little.) Generally women don’t work out of the house, and most have domestic help. Clearly, that leaves plenty of time for the tube.
Over lunch with Voom HD distribution partners for Scandinavia, Non-Stop Television, we learned that HD is picking up steam. In colder climates, where the nights are long, television is also a favored pastime. Voom HD launched in the dead of winter last November and is now on the air in each of the four Scandinavian countries as well as the Baltic nations of Estonia, and Latvia.
All our distribution partners like to hear that this year Voom HD is shooting 65 television series in over 45 countries. Our commitment to global production means that Voom HD will look and feel like the multi-cultural world it serves.
The day ended on the beach with a party hosted by Zone Media (and parent company Chellomedia), our distributors for the rest of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. There, I ran into colleagues from SDI, a company whose primary service is to dub or subtitle TV programming into multiple languages. They are currently putting five subtitled languages under all content for the Voom HD feed. And the good news tonight is that Zone Media is close to selling Voom HD into more European territories. That means more work for SDI.
As we stood sipping wine on the beach, fireworks lit up the sky over the Mediterranean. It served as a fitting end to a successful day.