Today, the UAE is the undisputed king of media in the Middle East. Two decades ago, this all wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who in the year 2000 envisioned a new role for Dubai and the UAE in the Middle East’s media industry. The journey towards this new, strengthened presence all started with Dubai Media City (DMC).
Now, almost 20 years later after that fateful day on November 11, 2000, Dubai Media City is celebrating two decades of success, after playing a major role in transforming the emirate into a global media capital and an international destination for talent, investment and innovation, effectively attracting the biggest names in media in the world to join its thriving community. Impressed by its state-of-the-art infrastructure, a supportive environment and services to improve the ease of doing business, big international names in the media industry like CNN, BBC, MBC and CNBC Arabia have since joined its ecosystem.
However, DMC was just the first of three media-focused communities alongside Dubai Production City and Dubai Studio City, and forms a complete ecosystem that is home to 3,000 companies and 30,000 professionals that cater to the country and overall region’s media needs.
Today, Dubai Media City is home to 122 television and radio channels, news and entertainment is broadcasted from the media hub to millions of people in dozens of languages, including Arabic, English, Chinese, German, Tagalog, Hindi and Urdu. There are also hundreds of print publications produced in a variety of languages aimed at a local and global audience.
“An indication of the significance of the media sector is the volume of the UAE’s advertising market, which stood at $2.051 billion (7.527 billion dirhams) in 2018,” Gulf News reports. “The Arab Media Outlook estimated that the media market in the UAE in 2018 was about $2.2 billion (8 billion dirhams). The country has the highest level of spending media per capita compared to the rest of the region.”
It was only a matter of time before the Arabic Information Ministers Council last year would decide to name Dubai as the Capital of Arab Media for 2020, thanks to Dubai Media City’s achievements in the field.
The ad spend drain problem
DMC’s role is even more crucial when you consider the fact that $1 out of every $3 spent on ads in the Middle East is ending up in with Silicon Valley firms.
“[In 2018], the MENA region [saw] a combined ad spend of $3.4 billion – and digital ads made up about 40% of that,” said Elie Khouri, CEO of Omnicom Media Group MENA, in a 2019 interview with Gulf News. “Now, out of that digital ad spend, over $1 billion has gone to Google, Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and, increasingly, Amazon. That’s money going outside of this region.
“Those dollars are finding their way into (the balance-sheets) of the digital businesses in Silicon Valley or San Francisco rather than into our regional economy. That’s why the advertising sector has struggled with job creation, dealing instead with lay-offs, company closures, etc. We can’t ignore the effectiveness of these platforms but as an industry we also need to mitigate the long-term implications of our media allocations on our regional ecosystem.”
One can only imagine the disaster 2020 has been for the industry, if that was the case in 2019.
In July, Zenith’s Advertising Expenditure Forecasts predicted that global advertising expenditures will shrink by 9.1% in 2020 to $572 billion. Moreover, MENA advertisers are expected to slash spending by 20%. Fortunately, ad spend has been ramping up again slowly as the world begins to come to terms with living in the ‘new normal.’
Regardless, Dubai Media City has its work cut out for it. It has a very important role in empowering the regional media industry and its professionals, to help keep funds and talent in the region.