A new trend among Arabic satellite channels

Continuing from the engaging debate on Subzero Blue, I would like to add my voice to that of MMM and salute the recent addition of MBC4 to to the Arabic satellite channel lineup.

Nowadays, it seems competition among Arabic satellite channels is raging for Western programing. It began with Saudi-owned MBC 2 nearly three years ago, as it emerged with a revolutionary English channel featuring American sitcoms, dramas, talk shows and fairly new movies. After enjoying the top position as really the only player for several years, the channel faced fierce competition from Dubai-based One TV, which adopted a similar format but introduced more recent programs.

Now MBC4 is here and looks sharp as can be. In addition to sitcoms and talk shows, the channel features some of the best in American news shows like 20/20, 60 Minutes and others.

We have been flipping through these channels for a while now and they are beginning to dominate our viewing time to the point that we find our paid satellite subscription to Orbit is a useless, really a waste of money. The Orbit package just doesn’t provide anything special and worse, they seem to enjoy showing B-grade movies that few ever heard of.

Paid satellite packages like Orbit, Showtime and others are facing fierce competition now. Unless they really think of something new to offer they will soon bite the dust, at least in this region.

As a media voyeur, I believe the regional trend amid free-to-air satellite channels is English-packaged programming. What is happening now reminds me of the black day when Jordan TV decided to cancel all-English JTV2. Shrewd officials at the channel insisted on mixing Arabic and English programs into one "super channel," as they called it, thinking it would bring more viewers to JTV. They were mistaken.

I was among many who stopped watching the national channel all together after they canceled JTV2. After this influx of successful English-only channels, I bet officials at JTV2 are realizing how flawed their decision was.


  1. Jareer February 11, 2005 at 2:27 pm

    Since I have no clue about this subject ( living abroad), I choose not to make any comments on this subject. I’d rather stay silent here.

  2. iyas February 11, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    I think you just made one šŸ˜‰

  3. linda February 11, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    hahahaha. funny iyas, funny.
    out here in L.A. many arab americans buy satellites and digital programs to get all the programs from the middle east. we do this because we have enough english channels. to enjoy, and want to be able to see whats going on out there. my only frustrations with these paackages is that some of them put american programs on these channels. i get enough of that. my other fristration is that i wish all the news channels would translate what they are saying into english at the bottom of the screen. it is very hard to understand the arabic they are speaking.

  4. Roba February 11, 2005 at 7:20 pm

    As subscribers to Orbit ourselves, I agree that Orbit has lost its appeal in comparision to the free to air channels that have taken Arab stallites by storm.
    The only Orbit movie channel that’s remotely watchable is Supermovies, and now there’s MBC2 to compete. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll watch MBC2 over Supermovies any given day, because although their movies are old, MBC2 only gets timeless classics that are worth watching over and over.
    As for the newly launched MBC4, I can’t judge it yet because I didn’t get the chance to watch it. I say, as long as they show The Drew Carry Show and Friends, I’m happy. Do they?
    Hm, last time I checked, JTv2 was still there. And I still didn’t get to tune into One TV… I’m very entertainment challenged :\

  5. jareer February 11, 2005 at 7:21 pm

    I understand your “fristration” Linda.

  6. Jareer February 11, 2005 at 8:35 pm

    I just want to re-emphasize my committment to staying silent on this subject.

  7. metalordie February 12, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    Orbits allure is actually its Arabic programming not its western shows. The movies suck sure, but every once in a while you get a diamond in the rough…
    One big happy Saudi inbred family, eh! MBC, LBC, Orbit and … hold on to your hats…Aljazeera? yep, saudis are trying to buy – salivate all you want boys and girls – the popular news network

  8. linda February 13, 2005 at 2:53 am

    oh no! ( iam yelling) they cannot buy al jazeera. if they do, i dont know what i would do.

  9. Subzero Blue February 14, 2005 at 6:40 am


    In response to the launch and success of One TV, the guys at MBC have redefined their Channel 2 as the first free 24h/24 movie channel and launched MBC4 to group a bunch of imported sitcoms, soap operas, talk shows…

  10. Farooha February 24, 2005 at 1:30 pm

    why what difference would it make. Most of the Saudi owned channels are a success, obviously, we repressed Saudis have a knack for this stuff.
    I don’t understand what the big deal is?

  11. Linda February 24, 2005 at 9:10 pm

    Well Farooha,
    Im not very fond of the Saudi Government (and i mean government, not the people). They exploit their people why they live in big palaces and spend millions and millions on their own health while a big chink of the population is poor.
    on top of that they are buddy buddy with bushy and im not too fond of my president. and theere is a big difference between al jazeera and al arabiya. al jazeera is just way better. the original always is.


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