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BBC Worldwide scraps BBC Entertainment channel in the Middle East

BBC Worldwide scraps BBC Entertainment channel in the Middle East

Channel dedicated entirely to ‘premium’ drama to launch in its place

The BBC has abandoned its pan-regional channel BBC Entertainment in the Middle East as part of a wider scheme to save around £150m at home and overseas.

BBC Worldwide, the commercial wing of the BBC, will withdraw the channel from air on January 31.

The channel will instead be replaced the next day with a new ‘premium’ drama-dedicated service called BBC First, which will be available to OSN subscribers across the Middle East and North Africa from February 1.

BBC First will only air their own content, including Holby City and Eastenders, and ITV shows such as Unforgotten.

BBC Entertainment has already been axed in Central and Eastern Europe. Remaining markets in Western Europe, Turkey and Israel will however be unaffected.

Last year, the BBC’s director general Tony Hall announced that the public-owned service was suffering from a £150m ($226m) budget gap due to a fall in the number of viewers paying for the licence fee in the United Kingdom.

Plans to streamline services between the BBC and BBC Worldwide were among the spending cuts announced in June, alongside the losses of more than 1,000 jobs.

The new channel BBC First will air popular UK dramas including Sherlock, Doctor Who and War and Peace, which will be broadcast with Arabic subtitles.

BBC Worldwide vice president and general manager for Middle East and Mediterranean Natasha Hussain said: “The BBC has a strong reputation for its outstanding drama programming. I’m delighted viewers in the Middle East and North Africa will soon be able to enjoy the most popular and critically acclaimed dramas coming out of the UK express from their original transmission.”

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