Commercial Pop-Up

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"Recently, I achieved my lifelong ambition: I appeared on Doctor Who. Yes, I secured the prestigious role of 'Man Ruining the End of the Episode'".
Graham Norton

Obnoxious new trend of a commercial blurb in the form of a "pop-up" style graphic during a show. Suffers from a trend of being large, staying on the screen too long, and generally ruining your viewing experience, particularly by covering up the lower one-tenth (or more!) of the screen, making it impossible to read things like labels to know who's talking, or subtitles. Even worse are the occasional ones that are actually accompanied by audio, including, in more than one case, loud explosion sounds.

Commonly called "bugs" by broadcasters, especially the small, semitransparent logos that appear in the lower right corner of the screen more or less continuously (in this case, it's usually to identify a network). Less commonly called "screen boogers" by annoyed viewers.

These ads are typically not for products, but for the network's programming. Often, they advertise what show is on next or later that day on the same channel. These can be especially jarring if the later show "clashes" with the current show, such as an ad for The Bachelor during Lost.

A particularly obnoxious trend is a commercial popup indicating what show you are watching and what network you are watching it on, although those can be slightly helpful if you're channel surfing and stumble on something midway. The stations justify this because some people DVR and record shows - this is also how the networks can remind people who are watching a pirated program where the program originated from, and ensure pirates at least buy the DVD to pirate from.

A similar trend is to start airing commercials during the credits of a show or movie by smashing the credits to one side of the screen and showing promos on the other. The credits are usually sped up and muted in favor of the shocking revelation coming on later tonight.

Have been known to ruin many a piece of potential Fan Vid footage...

...which is part of the point. Beyond just reclaiming some of the valuable advertising time they had previously wasted on actual show, these popups serve several other purposes linked to the rise of digital video recorders:

  • They can not be easily skipped like normal commercials (their first appearances were around 2001-2002, coinciding with the rise of the DVR)
  • They make DVD releases more desirable than off-air recordings
  • They "brand" the video feed, making bootleg copies easier to identify.

However, it is nigh-well unforgivable when a blocked subtitle is involved.

Examples of Commercial Pop-Up include:
  • During the Sci-Fi Channel run of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a pop-up of the Syfy logo would appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen, often obscuring Crow T. Robot during the theater scenes. This was so annoying that viewers successfully petitioned Sci-Fi to move their logo to the other side of the screen.
    • It was much earlier than that; Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans had the same demand with Comedy Central during its run on that channel. They also managed, while the show aired on that network to stop text crawls across the bottom of the screen, and got them to stop running voice-overs during the show's credits because gags would frequently be carried over and played on top of them.
  • On G4's X-Play, bugs became so common and annoying (and occasionally covered up important words/numbers etc. at the corner of the screen), that in one game review, they inserted a number of bugs all over the screen at random intervals that obscured it completely. G4 no longer puts bugs on during the show.
    • At the height of their ill-advised, childish, gimmicky idiocy, G4 found it best to include long, scrolling windows with moronic questions at the bottom of the screen that people online could prattle on about during the show. However, G4 neglected to change the framing of the TV show, so inevitably the window would COVER THE GAME RATINGS, as well as other things more desirable than a glorified chat room.
    • Game Network, later in its run, had a similar 'feature' where viewers could send text messages to the screen (at about 50p a time) - this was initially performed by zooming out and quarter-screening the programme and putting the texts in some other part of the screen. At one point, the chat's background would reflect the programme in question- usually a change of colourscheme to match the studio or something. However, in each background, the programme window would be in a different part of the screen, and that would have its effect on the psotion of the chat- on the bottom quarter of the screen on one show, down the right half on the next. Also, the transition from one background to the other would be a jerky fade to the channel logo and back. And it would invariably be about two minutes late for the start of the show.
      • Eventually the channel got through this phase and stuck to one layout. Initially a Bloomberg-like L shape where the picture made up two-thirds, this later became an overlay for the bottom third of the screen with otherwise full screen video, obsuring any programme captions.
      • Once this got back to the channel's show producers, they raised the position of their captions to above the texts. However, GN broadcasted all over Europe, and the texts were only shown in the UK. So now while the UK had readable captions, people watching in Italy, where the channel was broadcast from, were left scratching their heads wondering why the name of the game they were seeing was halfway up the screen.
  • Parodied in an episode of Drawn Together: Ling-Ling (who speaks in pseudo-Japanese and can only be understood through subtitles), is trying to convince the other housemates to help him, when suddenly a bug for The Daily Show appears, obscuring everything he's saying. Another character exclaims "Ling-Ling's right! I love the Daily Show!"
  • The Simpsons also once had Homer eating a Joe Millionaire pop-up. Similarly, another Couch Gag had the FOX logo pop up on the screen, with the entire family rushing over to stomp on it (back when logo bugs were the only commercial pop ups around). The creators of The Simpsons currently have a deal with Fox, wherein they will not put up real advertisements like this on during their show. They're spectacularly successful. They can do that.
    • Also parodied in The Simpsons Movie, where, during a scene where Homer and Bart are daring each other, a pop-up ad for Are You Smarter Than A Celebrity appears, stating "Yes, we even have these in movies now". (Actually, it's a newsbar, but still...)
    • Marge went further at the start of the 2007 Treehouse of Horror: with so many ads, she gets angry ("Can't people just watch the show they're watching?") and gets rid of the promos in various ways, such as vacuuming football players with a minivac, sticking House in a microwave and putting the rest in a meatloaf. Wherein they wriggle.
  • Sci Fi channel had a particularly horrible bug for their "Trek 2.0" version of Star Trek: The Original Series, which included the Star Trek: The Next Generation door chime. Slightly annoying, until you realize they also play Next Generation reruns! Yes, they had a pop-up ad (for another show) which included a sound that was taken from the show that was actually playing.
    • Sci Fi loves running half-screen "Ghost Hunter" popups in the middle of Eureka.
    • Their Mork and Mindy marathon that ran the day after Thanksgiving of 2008 (which included episodes from the probably-will-never-be-on-DVD-due-to-music-issues fourth season) was also plagued by Ghost Hunter pop-ups.
    • The UK arm of the station were running some kind of semi-market-research survey by telephone over about a week sometime in the 90s- this was advertised by wanging a massive picture of a head with a question mark in it over the right-hand third of the screen and a question with a phone number to dial on the other two thirds. Right in the middle. For ages.
  • Ads for the new TBS original comedy (yes, those exist now) The Bill Engvall Show have stumbled upon a way to intrude even more: Bill Engvall himself pops up and pauses the show you're watching to talk about his show. Which basically defeats the entire purpose of using pop-ups as opposed to actual commercials, as it basically creates an incredibly short commercial break at a random moment of the show.
    • To add insult to injury (Namely, yours when you put your fist through the screen), the commercial begins with Bill Engvall telling you how cool it is that he can pause the show you are watching. And by "cool", we mean "bend over".
    • It's not just television that has done this, either. Japanese video site Nico Nico Douga actually started adding interstitial ads smack-dab in the middle of the video you happen to be watching, with no way to skip ahead or pause at all. When you tried to watch a music video, you got hit with a two-minute ad for Penguin Musume Heart out of nowhere. (It's rather random, though, so it's not clear whether or not they've stopped this practice.)
  • Children's networks have taken up the more Egregious practice of shrinking the main picture and filling the resulting space with promos.
    • To plug Jimmy Neutron, Nickelodeon had these with Jimmy coming up and doing a short as one of these bugs. They diverted the attention from the show to this kids doing experiments anywhere on the screen at any time. He did stuff like modifying the original bug at first, but it grew worse more clever. During an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, the kid came in, hit a button, and the whole episode was replaced by a puppet show version of itself. There were also bugs where they replaced large segments of the show with a bunch of random clips from all of their other shows. However, unlike the puppets, it replaced an actual part of the episode, and often times, the punchline of the show's best joke.
    • Nick actually did a whole Marathon where the Rugrats would randomly run through parts of the show, too. The bugs actually ran by as part of a contest: Name what show, episode, and scene the baby ran by in, send it to Nick, and you'd be in the runnings for a treehouse.
    • During the UK Nicktoons airing of Avatar. The bug most noticeable is a pole-vaulting brain-thing which happily runs across the entire screen, usually during a climactic scene, but their habit to smush the credits to start showing trailers goes wrong during the longer-running season finales. While watching it with my little sister - who'd never seen the show before - they started running a loud and spoileriffic trailer for the latter half of the final season during the final moments of the first season finale.
  • Anybody who tries to watch anything on ABC Family has to put up with this crap! Let us watch Whose Line Is It Anyway without a popup for your lousy made for TV movies, dammit!
  • While not an actual advert for anything, the Logo station has a very annoying station tag. A blue ball, bounces all over the screen with a loud video-game-ish plinking noise before settling in the lower right corner.
  • The Australian sketch comedy show Comedy Inc. parodied this with a sketch featuring a CSI: Miami parody where increasingly bigger fake pop-ups for the channel kept covering crucial items (first a seemingly critical piece of evidence, then a stripping character's nudity), at one point covering half the screen. At this point Horatio gets on his cell phone and tells someone to arrest someone at Channel 9 for the number of ads.
  • This has gotten so bad on Cartoon Network, that now sometimes a gigantic ad advertising the next show will literally cover the bottom 40% of the screen.
    • Toon Disney and Jetix do did the same thing. The actual image ends up squashed and looking awful as everyone grows smaller and fatter due to compression.
    • The premiere airing of one episode of Justice League had a bug that featured a giant robot, including metallic stomping and explosion sounds that actually obscured several lines of dialogue. Needless to say, the fans were not pleased.
    • And of course there was the incident with the season 2 finale of Transformers Animated. The credits incuded a humorous dialogue between Megatron and Starscream's head, floating about stranded in an unidentified region of space. But both of the original English-language[1] airings (first YTV, then Cartoon Network shortly afterward) dubbed over that dialogue with interstitials, promting mass rage within the Transformers fandom (or at least those who appreciate Animated).
    • It's a good thing Yu-Gi-Oh! GX isn't on Cartoon Network anymore, these promos got in the way of the Life Points counter multiple times.
  • Weather reports. Ye flippin' gods, weather reports. They WON'T GO AWAY!! They're gigantic. They move. Budget for iTunes if you live in a place that gets weather.
    • This is one thing that probably helps the sales of DVD collections also - even if you invested the time and resources to tape every episode of your favorite show, meticulously pausing out the commercials, you were still almost guaranteed to end up with a thunderstorm/tornado/flash flood warning during the climactic section of the season finale. Especially if you live in the Midwest.
    • Someone once saw such a weather report with a warning for another state. Happens quite frequently in the Evansville area. (Local TV that likes to brag about the weather endlessly + tornado area + Channels that cover 3 states = bad combination)
    • Election results are even worse. Not only do they take the bottom third of the screen, they continuously repeat, and will even put a color bar on one side of the screen or the other. Sure, this keeps the aspect ratio right, but geez.
    • The weather and election pop-ups are particularly fun for those of us who depend on Closed Captioning: often the equipment at the station which overlays the alert is misconfigured, causing the captioning to be entirely stripped while the alert is up. At least the online airings are often captioned now...
  • An episode of Scrubs had a parody on one of these, after JD thinks of a silly sitcom about the Janitor and Ted adopting a kid, called "Legal Custodians." The next time JD brings it up, a Bug for it appears at the bottom of the screen.
  • 4Kids does this, and their logo is not particularly semi-transparent. This often makes it difficult to see useless things like life points, or the attack strength of a monster.
  • In the last few years of its run, Toon Disney did similar things, not only popping up advertisements, but also taking up a full third of the screen to show you a loud purple pattern giving the name of the show you are watching, for the benefit of parents who might find this more helpful in their decision-making process than just looking at the giant robots fighting on-screen.
  • Comedy Central's Futurama ends with the credits being shown in a small 'tear' in the bottom of the screen while the beginning of the next episode starts. Great idea, saves time and everything, right? Well, except that it now completely blocks out the unique-per-episode punch line they have written on the bottom of the screen...
    • Unless it's one of the few early episodes that starts with a cold opening, of course. Reruns of Scrubs do this, too, though both shows go back to the regular format if it precedes something like The Daily Show.
  • An episode of Family Guy makes a "joke" using this where, during a feminist speech by Lois, Marge appears in a pop-up ad for The Simpsons at the bottom of the screen and Quagmire tries to have sex with her. It then shifts into an overly long Take That against The Simpsons.
    • Family Guy also once did a running gag where characters would repeatedly break the Fourth Wall to complain about and kibbitz the pop-ups. Plus, most of these promos are for fake shows named after the type of image in the pop-up, such as "Shoving Buddies" or "Slowly Rotating Black Man".

Lois: "Is that a real show?"
Stewie: "No, it's just... no it's, somebody's making a joke for you."

  • When Law and Order: Criminal Intent moved to USA Network, a gag ad was created where Goren wanted to know what the hell the USA bug in the corner of the screen was. He then tried unsuccessfully to interact with it before declaring it "weird".
    • That's not new for USA Network shows, either. USA used to have somewhat annoying non-transparent bugs featuring Monk poking at the bug itself (distracting, to say the least), but they've since switched to mostly transparent USA logos and sometimes messages that a new episode of whatever show will be starting at x time.
  • Television Without Pity forums has this post about a forum-er who saw The Reveal of a tattoo in a 7thHeaven rerun get covered up with a pop-up.
  • Fox teased the premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles by randomly broadcasting a pair of red eyes on its feed during certain shows like Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. Example.
  • This article from a Rugrats fansite has a minor complaint about bugs covering up presenter captions on the Kids' Choice Awards.
  • Parodied in a Strong Bad E-Mail where Strong Bad mentioned "Discovery Channel" specials about CGI dinosaurs. While he said this, a bug for the fictional CGI Walking With Trogdor appeared. Sadly, despite being a parody, it fit here, as it appeared exactly within the confines of the back of Strong Bad's head.
  • While watching MASH on the Fox FX network, pop-up ads for Nip/Tuck would appear at the bottom of the screen. The visuals of the ads weren't so bad, but the moving knives would be accompanied by knife-sharpening sound effects which drowned out the dialogue in the show.
    • It was also annoying when they showed King of the Hill reruns and you'd have to put up with lime green movie tickets flying around making "WHOOSH" noises while plugging whatever movie they were going to show that night.
  • Cartoon Network tends to smoosh the credits for ads for the preiemere of -all-original- shows. So basically, they spend time creating credit rolls for their own shows, which they then smoosh into unreadabillity. Is that even contractually allowed?
  • Game Show Network used to have a huge bug for PlayMania that went two-thirds of the way across the screen and about a quarter of the way up. Just barely wide enough to obscure the password in Password and its revivals (especially annoying when the password isn't whispered), the correct answer shown briefly to home viewers in |Double Dare, etc.
  • An ad that almost beats the Bill Engvall popup for the most intrusive Commercial Pop-Up ever: a VH-1 advertisement for some show called "Scream Queens". The ad manifests itself as a HIGH-PITCHED SCREAM during an otherwise quiet moment in a show.
    • Speaking of VH-1, the show Flavor of Love: Charm School had an ad for Celebrity Fit Club pop up. It takes up THE ENTIRE SCREEN, save for the TV rating bug.
  • The website Blip.tv can be notorious for this, sometimes showing advertising bugs seemingly every 2 minutes, and every other bug is unhideable.
  • This can get pretty bad during Professional Wrestling shows, as not only do the pop-ups take up space on the screen and distract from the match, but the commentators all of a sudden start ignoring the match and begin shilling for the show or product being advertised. Tremendously irritating.
  • During the "world premiere" of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force film on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim Block, the movie was displayed without sound in a tiny box in the corner of the screen , and episodes of Family Guy and Futurama aired while the movie ran (in its entirety) in the corner. During this, humongous pop-up ads for the movie with loud sound effects also appeared from time to time.
  • Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel LOVE to advertise when they have a new movie premiering soon. They'll put up a timer counting down to High School Musical or The Cheetah Girls or whatever they're going to show up to 24 HOURS beforehand! That is 48 shows they screw with just to advertise something that the people who are going to watch it already know when it's on given the insane amount of commercials. Does anyone care that Camp Rock is going to premiere in 21 hours, 42 minutes and 37 seconds?!?
    • An even worse instance: If you've seen a PAL recording of the Phineas and Ferb episode "One Good Scare Ought to Do It!" on YouTube, chances are you had to put up with a little graphic on the right hand corner of the screen, advertising a sneak peek at High School Musical 3 airing the next day at 4:00 PM - for the entirety of the show. Apparently someone on the Disney Channel's European branch felt it wasn't enough to just show a first look at the film, but to continually remind everyone that they were showing a sneak peek when they most likely didn't need to be reminded.
  • The pop-ups are especially annoying on programs that feature significant amounts of subtitling (Heroes and Lost). God forbid you try to actually watch a foreign movie that is entirely subtitled, only to have significant chunks of the film deprived of meaning by endless annoying ads for programs you couldn't care less about and wouldn't watch if you did simply as protest for the god-awful annoying, hateful if not downright evil pop-up ads! We're looking at you, TNT.
    • ABC did this with a countdown clock for the midseason premiere of V during a final-season episode of Lost. It was bad enough that it was a Jin and Sun episode with a lot of subtitling, but Sun had also lost her voice, and was writing notes to communicate, and at one point the V bug completely obscured one of these messages. This was so distracting that a lot of the post-episode press (and Stephen Colbert!) devoted time to ragging on it.
  • During a showing of The Day the Earth Stood Still on AMC, an ad filled the entire bottom of the screen for a western mini-series, accompanied by loud horse noises. Rather annoying, to say the least.
  • The cable news channels count down to presidential speeches or a state's election close, while CNBC and Fox Business will put timers on to countdown to the releases of economic reports.
  • The Emergency Alert System. Tests block out the entirety of the broadcast, hiding what would have been a good part of the show. If you're watching TV on a cable box, expect the cable box to be locked out to external control, forcing you to watch the EAS screen...
    • It's the Emergency Alert System. It wouldn't be very effective if the viewer could just turn it off!
    • The EBS seems to have caught on to this, as their required tests only appear very late at night nowadays. If the Emergency Broadcast Service interrupts you during waking hours, you'd best listen up.
  • MTV in the UK feel the need to keep the name of the programme you're watching on-screen at all times. While this is often helpful during music video slots, certainly themed ones (MTV UK is actually still reasonable for this, broadly speaking) it's less relevant during regular programming.
    • So does the CW's cable version, which is doubly annoying since if you have cable, you most likely have a guide to tell you you're watching the CW and Smash Cuts.
  • Parodied in the South Park episode "More Crap". Whenever a particularly crass moment took place, a bug reading "Emmy Winning Series" would pop up in the corner of the screen. At the end of the episode, the advertisement became a trophy given to Randy for having the biggest piece of crap in the world.
  • A gag one happens with the network Logo Version on Chowder. Chowder scribbles on the screen and gets yelled at. After it's cleaned up he points over at the Cartoon Network logo and asks "What about that one?" to witch Gaspatcho responds "That one doesn't come off. I've tried" The Channel Icon is part of the episode making it obvious that the logo has changed since the episode's intial airing.
  • Phineas and Ferb parodies the Disney Channel's use of this trope in "Summer Belongs to You"; a bug reading "You're watching television!" covers the bottom third of a screen a few minutes into the episode, blocking off a visual gag of Ferb providing an "idea!" sound effect using a triangle. Phineas takes notice of it and shoos it off the screen.
  • Global TV in Canada has started showing large pop-ups advertising Uncharted 2: Among Theives. That's right, it's not a promo for another show, it's an ad for a video game. Often shows up during Heroes, where it may occasionally occlude Hiro/Ando's subtitles.
  • Internet example, Pandora radio recently started featuring not only ads between songs, but full-video ads between stations. You know, because everyone has a great internet connection...
  • SBS 6 in the Netherlands Stopped a movie in a manner that resembled a network/signal problem for a quick ad for a dance show hosted by the resident loud and annoying presenter. It killed the mood i can tell you that.
  • Some children's preschool programming like Nick Junior and Playhouse Disney kept a solid logo in the corner of the screen, obscuring what was under them. There was a Dora the Explorer where Dora counted five objects for the viewer but the fifth was completely obscured by the network logo in the corner. Eventually networks switched to a transparent logo.
  • Nick-At-Nite has recently started putting gigantic rectangular advertisements for whatever's coming up next that block the bottom third of the screen.
  • The BBC do these with small bars at the bottom or the top of the screen, for the next show. Normally doesn't happen on BBC One, but once did during the climax of a Doctor Who episode, for the following Lloyd-Webber/Graham Norton reality star search and included an animated version of Norton with bar. This led to official complaints form over five and a half thousand viewers, it angered so many viewers (including Charlie Brooker and Simon Pegg) that "Doctor Who" and "Graham Norton" actually became trending topics on Twitter because of it.
  • E! has bugs running pretty much constantly. This makes sense during their normal shows, where a celebrity gossip newsreel would fit right in. It does not make sense, however, when this pops up during a movie screening. Especially when the movie in question is the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. As if commercial breaks weren't jarring enough, now the mood of the entire movie is ruined.
  • Bugs for the latest game in the The Escapist's promo cycle appear in many of their video features, including Zero Punctuation's.
  • During an episode hosted by Will Farrel, Saturday Night Live did a skit where Kenan Thompson and Bill Hader played TNT's playcallers for the NBA, Charles Barkley and Marv Albert. While they're trying to talk about the game, a Commercial Pop-Up appears for a new TNT show, which they notice and start talking about. When it vanishes, they go back to talking about the game, but then it pops up again, with Barkley getting really excited by the hijinks that take place in the pop up. This repeats throughout the skit, much of Marv Albert's chagrin.
  • A commercial for Psych has fun with this: one bug for the series has the two leads walk into the corner for a while. During a seemingly normal commericial for the same series, the bar pops up—and Shawn and Gus spot it.
  • One Animal Planet bug for a then-upcoming show about training dogs to perform various cool tricks used the "pause the actual show" trick. A frisbee would fly in, the current show freezing while a dog caught it, then the host would walk up, praise it, and lead it away before letting the show continue.
  • Related: Neopets spoofs internet popups with their game Advert Attack - the game's entire challenge is navigating around or getting rid of fake ads that dominate the screen so you could actually get at the game's controls.
  • TNT's NBA coverage will use a free throw to sneak one of these in (usually for one of TNT or even TBS's original productions) sometimes, along with an Enforced Plug by the announcers.
  • One episode of Frisky Dingo had a message on the screen for 15 seconds at the start that said "This is where the network puts that mammoth bug." Then, "Enjoy the show." Biting the Hand Humor doesn't even begin to cover it.
  • Young Justice: And since the subtitles are more on the right side of the screen it becomes very grating being reminded what network it’s on.
  • Someone on late-night Teletoon must be an epic troll, because they are constantly doing these commercial pop-ups during American Dad over things that require the bottom of the screen, such as Toshi's subtitles or the "Bill Publishermann" gag.
  • Ads for yin yang yo, had yang pull a banner down (complete with sound effects), which obscured 80-95% of the screen. He then pulled it up after about two seconds.
  • When LazyTown aired on Cbeebies; an ad usually popped up that had a yellow blob 'thinking' of whatever show was coming up next, covering half the screen during the Once Per Episode song and stayed there for about 15 seconds.
  • Many years ago, the Canadian station YTV ran a promotion for... something, This Troper can't quite remember what, featuring computer viruses that took the form of actual bugs escaping from... somewhere, This Troper can't quite remember where. It consisted of a swarm of glowing green bugs crawling up the screen at some point during nearly every show that played over the course of about a month. They would take a few seconds, blocking portions of the screen and covering up the audio with their crawling noises. However, the worst one was a gigantic centipede that would appear occasionally. It muted the sound of the show, and crawled INCREDIBLY slowly: it would take over a minute for the thing to leave and bring back the sound!
    • That was actually a part of a contest that YTV was running at the time (2000?) where viewers named the program the green bugs/centipedes appeared in and would win prizes for doing so. The "story" behind that was that some villain was planning a hostile takeover of YTV, and sent the aforementioned bugs to wreak havoc during the program.
  • In the first airing of The Legend of Korra episode And the Winner Is..., a bug of Spongebob laughing shows up just as Korra is shown falling. It's even become a meme.
  • In the first airing of the SpongeBob episode The Monster Who Came to Bikini Bottom, the monster tramples on police cars in a way that seems like it was supposed to be comical, but the trampling wasn't noticeable until the police commented on it because this trope was in the way. Thereby ruining the joke.
  1. Oddly enough, it was aired in the Middle East, already dubbed into Arabic, several months prior