Image Nation Abu Dhabi is partnering with Discovery Communications to launch Quest Arabiya, a new free-to-air Arabic-language channel that will cater to audiences in the Middle East and North Africa. The channel will launch before the end of the year. Quest Arabiya will be aimed primarily at Arab men aged 16-44 with a lineup combining factual and reality programs with a combination of locally-produced original material as well as localized content from Discovery’s library. Genres will include typical Discovery fare including adventure and survival, motoring, engineering, wildlife, history, and people and places.

Image Nation’s Carl von Doussa will lead the new channel. Quest Arabiya will operate from a dedicated office in the UAE. Discovery already has a strong local offering, with a portfolio of channels that free-to-air food network Fatafeat, as well as pay TV networks including Discovery Channel HD, TLC HD, Animal Planet HD, distributed on the OSN pay platform. 

Under the terms of the partnership, Discovery Communications has the option to acquire Image Nation’s content for broadcast on its international channels around the world. The move underscores the growing importance of the Middle East and North Africa to broadcasters around the world. With a population in excess of 300 million people, two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30, the MENA region is a hungry consumer of content with hundreds of free-to-air channels competing for eyeballs. Earlier this year, Starz launched Starz Play Arabia, its subscription online video service across 17 countries in the Middle East, stealing a march on others, including Netflix and Amazon, who are also eyeing up the potentially lucrative market. While broadband penetration can be patchy across the region, mobile penetration is through the roof. In the UAE, for example, there are more mobile phones than there are people.

The Discovery partnership also underscores the extent to which Image Nation is making a concerted push into Arabic-language TV production — a huge growth area — that could become a major revenue generator and job creator for the company in the years to come.  Some of the projects coming through Image Nation are Beyond Borders, about privileged Emiratis taken out of their comfort zone to go travelling around the world, and Abu Dhabi Judicial, a big budget scripted series about life around an Abu Dhabi court.