MBC axes Turkish TV shows | Pay-TV | News | Rapid TV News
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Anta watani 6 March 2018Prime time Turkish dramas have been dropped by pan-Arab broadcaster MBC, following a directive that is thought to have been delivered by the Saudi Government.

Although MBC has not confirmed who gave the order, it follows recent reports that Saudi authorities were taking a 60% stake in what had been the Middle East's largest privately-owned media group.

The directive affects six Turkish shows, including crime drama Al Dakheel and period drama Anta Watani (pictured), which were removed, mid-series, from MBC schedules at the beginning of March.

MBC acquired its first Turkish drama serial, Gumus (known as Noor in Arabic), in 2007. Dubbed in Arabic, it proved a big hit with viewers across MENA. Its final episode reportedly attracted a regional audience of 80 million.

"The removal of the Turkish programming from MBC is a further indication that the broadcaster is fully in the hands of the Saudi government and it is implementing the media agenda of the Kingdom," Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, principal research analyst, IHS Markit told Rapid TV News.

Since 2014, Turkish series have been banned from the state-controlled television channels of Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. "The main reason is Turkey's position, together with Qatar, of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood political movement in Egypt and the Arab World in general," said Papavassilopoulos. "It remains to be seen how this decision will affect the popularity of MBC in the Middle East and North Africa as I strongly believe that it is in the best interests of the Saudi government to keep MBC as the number one TV entertainment destination for all Arabs, as the broadcaster who enters every Arab household. It is equally questionable what will be the fate of O3 Medya, the MBC-controlled content production and distribution company in Turkey."

Until now, the Dubai-based broadcaster has continued to programme Turkish content with great success, amassing large audiences and attracting advertisers.

MBC now faces renewed competition from outlets in the region that are still carrying Turkish content. UAE's state run network Dubai TV, for example, continues to air drama Sultana Kosem, while subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service Netflix streams a range of Turkish titles, including the 2011 historical drama The Magnificent Century and popular 2009 espionage thriller Ezel.

While acknowledging the move is likely to hit revenues and audience ratings, MBC Group spokesman Mazen Hayek told The National: "This may be an incentive for Arab producers to create high-level Arabic drama that can be a good alternative to those taken off the air".