MTV is poised to launch what it bills as the first-ever free-to-air youth entertainment and lifestyle channel serving the Middle East region.

The new channel, MTV Arabia, will go live on Nov. 17, through a long-term licensing partnership between MTV Networks International and TECOM Investments plus its media unit, Arab Media Group (AMG).

The satellite-delivered channel will showcase the region's rising hip hop scene, and will program a 60/40 blend of international and Arabic music videos, with a blend of international and local productions.

"Through MTV's global platform that reaches nearly two billion people, Arabic music and culture can be exported to new audiences - giving Arabs a bigger voice and greatly enriching the diversity of our MTV creative culture," MTV Networks vice chairman Bill Roedy said in a statement.

The new channel will operate under the umbrella of AMG's TV broadcasting arm Arabian Television Network (ATN), which will incorporate three other stations to launch before the end of 2007, plus the anticipated Nickelodeon Arabia.

"MTV Arabia is only the beginning of our ambitious plans for growth in the Middle East," adds Roedy, "and we're excited to launch further Arabic services, including Nickelodeon next year."

Arab Media Group CEO Abdullatif al Sayegh added: "MTV Arabia will celebrate a new era for our youth - as young people represent 65% of the population in the Middle East, it's time they were heard."

MTV Arabia will beam to a potential audience of 190 million viewers across the Arabic region, says MTV, representing the greatest reach of any of the channels in the music TV broadcaster's 25-years in business.