Dubai has the vision to create great TV content for the entire Arab world

The provision of three new sound stages in Dubai is being repaid by attracting many more productions to the UAE, writes Jamal Al Sharif.

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Dubai has developed into one of the world's leading production destinations, the location of choice for Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters alike, including Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol in 2010 and the much-anticipated Happy New Year, which will be released towards the end this year.
Less attention, however, has been drawn to the array of television productions taking place across the emirate, which are showcasing Dubai's cutting-edge technology and infrastructure, and putting it on the world stage as a strategically important global hub.
Over the past year, Dubai has attracted production and television crews from around the world who have created a wide range of productions, including telenovelas, game shows and international franchises. Key developments within the emirate's infrastructure have significantly boosted its production capacity. This includes the completion last year of Dubai Studio City's three sound stages, which are the largest in the region and have changed the way content is being created.
Large numbers of television productions and crews have been given increasing support and facilitation of entry into Dubai by the Dubai Film and TV Commission, and Dubai's government has played a key role in driving the growth of the emirate's media industry.
According to a recent white paper report by the Dubai Film and TV Commission and Oliver Wyman, titled Opportunities and Challenges in the Middle East and North Africa production market, the government has played an extremely active role in fostering infrastructure for the film and television industry, which stems from the opening of Dubai Media City in 2001.
The report also touches upon the lack of Arabic film and television production, which is significantly below par when benchmarked with comparable markets, representing only 0.03 per cent of GDP. However, Dubai is beginning to see a shift in the production of Arabic content, and 2014 has already seen a breadth of Arabic content being produced from within the sound stages.
The sound stages are producing more content than ever seen before across the Middle East. Demand for production space has soared since their official opening last year, and Dubai Studio City is looking to create more space to meet this demand. The high levels of demand are not only testament to the cutting-edge infrastructure and technologies used within the sound stages, which are not seen anywhere else in the region, but also to the growth of the industry as a whole and the revival of confidence in the production industry.
Sound stage one, currently occupied by MBC and its joint venture with Stargate Middle East, is the production location of choice for the 120-episode tele­novela Matrimonia, which will screen soon, and more recently for the renowned TV series Cactus Alliance. A typical day's production turnaround in the Middle East is 5 to 10 minutes of material per day, but MBC and SGME are turning around one 40-minute episode per day. This has been made possible by the studios' easy and efficient process and availability of support services, as well as its world-class infrastructure and efficient logistics and communications.
The sound stage has the largest special-effects green screen in the region and the latest innovations in post-production technology, allowing for extremely quick turnaround time. Dubai's one-stop shop services, including the availability of talent, have set it apart from the region in the way content is being produced. This new technique has the global film and television production industry watching closely, and has the potential to transform the future of TV production in the whole region.
Dubai has also been the location of choice for renowned international TV franchises looking to create Arabic content. MasterChef Arabia filmed its first series on our sound stages using the largest MasterChef set to date. Dubai was able to not only support such a well-known international format, but its infrastructure and technology enabled MasterChef to greatly increase the size of its production.
The past year has seen more and more local and Arabic TV content being produced, including Saraya Al Bait, Al Hob Fe Al Arbeen, Qabl Al Awan and Weash Rajjak, which are being viewed across the Arab world. Dubai is home to unrivalled local talent, and some of the biggest names in the media industry are represented in the emirate, including MBC and OSN. With a large scope for more local content to be created, Dubai is taking great strides to try to meet demand.
A real TV production ecosystem is being created in Dubai, which, according to DFTC's white paper, has been fuelled by Dubai's understanding of the importance of diversifying its economy, and recognition of the many indirect and direct benefits a vibrant media ecosystem can provide.
Dubai's government has made the development of a sustainable, vibrant media ecosystem a focal point of its strategic vision for the future. There are no limits to what can be achieved in Dubai, and the production industry is no exception to this rule.
Jamal Al Sharif is the managing director of Dubai Studio City and chairman of the Dubai Film and TV Commission