Eurovision Song Contest eyes up Africa and MidEast

Fri May 15, 2009 10:06am EDT
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By James Kilner

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Critics may mock the Eurovision Song Contest for being kitsch, but at its core it is a growing business which is now going global.

The Switzerland-based European Broadcast Union (EBU), an association of broadcasters from 56 countries, wants to expand the format for one of the most-watched annual television events in Europe to countries across the world.

Bjoern Erichsen, director of the EBU's TV unit, told Reuters that investors have signed a deal to make a version of the contest -- which pits a musical act from each participating country against the rest -- for the Middle East and North Africa.

He said they were also close to finalizing a deal for a contest called Song of Africa in sub-Saharan Africa.

"They have now paid for the license fee," he said of the Middle East and North African investors. "They should have eight or nine participating broadcasters and that is fine. That's the way Eurovision started and it can grow from there."

He declined to give the exact cost of a Eurovision license fee, but said it was "some hundred thousand" dollars.

The EBU also said it had held talks with investors in Asia, South America and the United States. The investors involved with Song of Africa later said they planned the inaugural contest final in 2011, although a final deal for the Eurovision Song Contest license had not yet been signed.

"It's a sizeable financial commitment but we recognize the global brand," Brenda Devar, a director for Song of Africa, said at this year's Eurovision show in Moscow.   Continued...

<p>Oscar Loya (L) of Germany's Alex Swings Oscar Sings performs with Burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese during a rehearsal for the Eurovision Song Contest final in Moscow May 15, 2009. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>