Media in the Middle East is in the process of becoming revolutionized. There are currently around 487 free-to-air satellite channels broadcasting throughout the Middle East, and 620 in total. As such, many companies and cities throughout the region are vying for media dominance. Could Abu Dhabi emerge as the front-runner for becoming the Middle East’s primary media hub?
The Gulf States offer an attractive location for news outlets, particularly Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It’s located in the heart of a region where most of the media industries are currently in their very early stages. Reporters and journalists can get to news hot-spots like Iran and Iraq fairly easily, and the lack of a corporation tax has prospective investors licking their lips. Abu Dhabi makes sense from a financial standpoint as well: It has a vast array of capital to work with. There’s currently more than $1 trillion invested within the city, which only has a population of about 900,000. Unlike neighboring Dubai, which seemingly focuses on shorter-term returns, this capital allows Abu Dhabi to set its sights on much more distant horizons. $100 billion+ investments into developing media infrastructure are wholly possible, with the goal of seeing returns 15-20 years down the line.
Global media conglomerates, one such being Fox International Channels, are planning on setting up media production and broadcasting facilities in Abu Dhabi. They’re doing this with the assistance of TwoFour54, which is the UAE’s government-run media free zone. It was designed with the intention that foreign investors wouldn’t need a local partner in the private sector. It currently has deals with CNN, Financial Times, Bloomberg News, Thomas Reuters, and Viacom, to name a few. The ultimate goal is to generate a media culture which makes not only Abu Dhabi, but the entire Middle East into a mediator for global discourse. Such a prominent global role would make Abu Dhabi a media hub, and becoming a media hub invites investments.
International media superbrands benefit Abu Dhabi in two ways: First off, they generate business and employment. Second and perhaps more importantly, their global prestige attracts other businesses, and subsequently investments. Their logos are excellent marketing devices, and their presence lures support industries around them. Not to mention advertising. There was $13.5 billion gained in advertising revenue in 2009 in the UAE, and the number is expected to grow to close to $20 billion in 2012. With a great vehicle in TwoFour54, lots of money to invest, and an already promising start, Abu Dhabi is poised to become the world’s next big media hub.