By Nick Cooper

Pan-Arab broadcaster MBC is to add to its growing portfolio of channels with the launch of MBC Drama.

The new channel will go live within the coming weeks and will have its official launch at the Armani Hotel, Dubai, on 24 November in the presence of a host of television stars and celebrities from the Arab world.

The Arabic-language station is to broadcast 24 hours and will focus primarily on soap operas and drama, including programmes from Egypt, Syria and the Gulf.

The free-to-air channel is understood to be unrelated to its pay-TV namesake MBC+ Drama, which is a joint venture between the Orbit Showtime Network (OSN) and the MBC Group and airs uninterrupted Arabic drama and Turkish series on the OSN platform.

MBC+ Drama launched in February 2009 and includes Turkish dramas La Makan la watan and Sanawat el daya’a in its line-up, both of which are dubbed into Arabic.

The MBC Group confirmed that the channel was launching, but would not divulge any further information ahead of its official launch.

The pan-Arab broadcaster’s bouquet of channels includes general entertainment station MBC1, movie channel MBC2, children’s channel MBC3 and 24-hour news channel Al Arabiya. During the course of the past few years it has launched a number of new stations, including MBC Action, MBC Persia and MBC Max.

Saudi owned, MBC was launched in 1991 and broadcasts a mix of free-to-air news and entertainment channels via satellite. It was originally based in London but relocated to Dubai in 2002.

The group dominates pan-Arab TV, despite competition from rival Rotana. Five of the top pan-Arab stations by advertising spend are produced by the MBC Group.