The relocation of pioneering Arab satcaster MBC (Middle Eastern Broadcasting) to Dubai has been one of the many success stories to come out of Dubai Media City.
Originally moving from its London offices in 2001, MBC was one of the first media companies to take advantage of the integrated facilities on offer in DMC, leading the way for the likes of CNN, Reuters and Showtime to follow suit.
Previously synonymous with being one of the region’s least profitable commercial media operations — where it was estimated to be losing billions of dollars — the channel has managed to turns its fortunes round, launching MBC Al Arabiyeh, its 24-hour news rival to Al Jazeera as well as announcing a host of new programming that it hopes will see it reclaim its market share.
Ihab Osman, MBC Group head of marketing and PR, says: “The move helped MBC build on its strengths as the home channel for Arab families across the region. We look forward to continuing our growth, as has been proven in various studies, to be the largest media and entertainment group in the Middle East.”
Highlighting the reasons for the move, Osman explains: “The fact that DMC is a free zone, as well as providing us with cutting-edge technology and facilities really helped us. We’re in the center of the Middle East. We have direct contact with our customers now.”
Not that it’s been all plain sailing for the Saudi-owned group. This year has seen costly decisions to yank the big-budget “Big Brother” from screens after only a week due to protests from conservatives in Bahrain over its perceived risque content.
Most recently, the group suffered a similar fate when it was forced to shelve its headline drama for Ramadan, “The Road to Kabul,”
midway through its run when the serial’s producer Qatar TV failed to provide the remaining episodes after receiving threats from an Islamist group over the show’s alleged negative portrayal of the Taliban.
Osman is quick to counter these failures, claiming that “neither of those decisions were taken by MBC. We had nothing to do with them. It was the Bahraini parliament that told us to stop ‘Big Brother’ and Qatar TV didn’t send us the remaining tapes of ‘Kabul.’ We are a responsible channel. We don’t have any censorship. Anyway, we have so many ideas for programs that we are confident will make a big impact on the Middle East.”