Local content driving growth as Abu Dhabi Media Summit gets under way

Industry growth at 7 per cent a year, according to the study conducted by Strategy&, a management consultancy.
Noura Al Kaabi, CEO of twofour54. Mona Al-Marzooqi/ The National
Noura Al Kaabi, CEO of twofour54. Mona Al-Marzooqi/ The National

The region’s media industry will grow in size to US$21.5 billion by 2019, says a report being released on Tuesday for the start of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit.

That represents a growth rate of 7 per cent a year, according to the study conducted by Strategy&, a management consultancy. The study says that demand for local content will drive the growth.

The report also highlights rising smartphone penetration and evolution of paid and digital media as the industry’s drivers over the next half-decade.

“The Middle East and North Africa media industry is undergoing a fascinating transformation,” said Noura Al Kaabi, the chief executive of twofour54, organiser of the summit. “Cultural shifts among the region’s young people have spawned a tremendous creative energy, changing the way media is both consumed and created.”

Figures from the regional and global media and technology industry are in Abu Dhabi for the fifth edition of the summit, which takes place from Tuesday through Thursday at the Rosewood Abu Dhabi hotel.

Opening the summit is Queen Rania of Jordan, who replaced Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg at the last minute. Ms Sandberg cancelled owing to a scheduling conflict, according to Facebook.

Previous year’s speakers include Bill Gates, Tim Berners Lee and Rupert Murdoch.

This year’s theme is “Driving and Sustaining Future Media in Mena and beyond”.

Speakers including JB Perrette, president of Discovery Networks International, and Gerhard Zeiler, president of Turner Broadcasting International, will address challenges and investment opportunities across content, distribution and finance.

“We are looking to stimulate the media industry in the region, connect it with the global network and keep up at the forefront of such a dynamic industry,” said Ms Al Kaabi.

Collaboration between sectors will also be a theme across the summit, with telecom companies playing a central role according to Osman Sultan, the chief executive of du and one of the speakers at the summit.

“Telcos are at the centre of this whole digital world we are heading to,” said Mr Sultan. “Telcos will have to find a way to position themselves in order to ensure that they will still have a bright future in this industry.”

The telecoms, traditional and digital media industries have been forced to converge and work with one another in recent years as smartphones have become the primary platform that combines the services of the different sectors in the industry.

“Telcos are completely convergent, media are converged, devices are converging,” said Mr Sultan. “When we think now one smart handset has the functions of a camera, television, laptop and a phone. They converge and it is how the entire ecosystem is shifting.”

But it is not just the telcos that have to shift alongside the changes. The technology and media sector in the region will all have to transform and adapt to the smart cities that are planned for the near future.

“The media industry benefits immensely from collaboration and so does ADMS,” Ms Al Kaabi said. “Our aim is to advance the media industry as a vital pillar of the UAE’s economy.”

thamid@thenational.ae

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Published: November 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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