The wide-ranging deal will see the financially ailing youth-focused digital media company create Arabic-language content exclusively for MBC “across a wide range of lifestyle verticals, including food, music, fashion, the visual arts, and video games,” according to a joint statement. The partnership also involves training local media professionals in Saudi Arabia and across the rest of the MENA region.
Vice, which has been active in the Middle East since 2017, pulled out of Saudi after the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi. They have now opened offices in Riyadh’s JAX cultural district.
Financial terms of the long-in-the-works deal were not disclosed. But in September, during the ongoing talks, the New York Times reported it could be worth at least $50 million.
In September the Times noted that even as the deal with MBC was being negotiated Vice was covering human rights issues in Saudi Arabia. Now that it’s sealed, it will be interesting to see if that continues.
“Given Vice’s reputation for content and storytelling, we couldn’t ask for a better partnership with which to kick off 2023,” said MBC CEO Sam Barnett in a statement. “We have no doubt that Vice will help deliver diverse content that will complement our current offerings on MBC,” he added.
Vice Media Group CEO Nancy Dubuc commented: “MBC Group is the leading media platform in the region, and we are happy to help extend its reach while highlighting the vibrant, emerging youth culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – where more than half the population is under the age of 35 – and across the Arabic-speaking world.”
Vice Media Group, first launched in 1994 as a punk magazine in Montreal, now operates five main businesses: the Vice.com digital group; Vice Studios, its film and TV production unit; the Vice TV international television network; Vice News; and the Virtue creative agency.
The company, which has been struggling to turn a profit in recent years, has reportedly been in stalled sale talks with Greek broadcaster Antenna Group. There is speculation that the deal with MBC could help boost its price tag with various bidders.