It remains important that we continue providing the best environment and infrastructure to facilitate growth, partnerships and innovation.
There seems to be a mounting call for original, high-quality Arabic content – and global players are picking up on it. In an era of representation and diverse stories, the MENA content creation and broadcasting sector is seeing a rising wave of output and audiences.
Earlier this year, CNN Business Arabic officially began transmitting from the UAE to engage with a wider pool of Arabic speakers. Starzplay is deepening its roots as one of the region’s leading streamers with focused growth in its Arabic-language content. In February, it announced a multiyear partnership to make Watchit’s massive Arabic content library, which contains over 12,000 episodes of TV and 200 films, available on its platform.
This is a trend we’ve been seeing in our Media Cluster since last year. In March 2022, Warner Music Group acquired Qanawat Music, a regional music distribution heavyweight, as part of its plans to expand into the MENA region and build deeper relationships with Arabic artists and fans. Such investments and stories are part of a trend catalysed by Arabic speakers seeking out more diverse content. In this regard, Dubai is well positioned to be in the driver’s seat as the global foray into Arabic content gathers steam.
Dubai’s creative economy
Dubai is already the world’s gateway to the MENA region, with four billion people living within an eight-hour flight of the city. This level of connectivity has established its position as a melting pot for global creators, suppliers and industries to collaborate with ease. Legislation to strengthen Dubai’s independent knowledge-based economy is helping align long-term investments in the broadcast, content and media industries.
The Dubai Creative Economy Strategy, for instance, aims to double the local creative industry’s GDP contribution to 5% by 2025, from 2.6% in 2020. It reiterates Dubai’s commitment from the highest levels of government to support the local creative industry long-term growth.
TECOM Group’s media cluster – made up of Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and Dubai Production City – has been at the cornerstone of the creative economy. By offering an integrated ecosystem to more than 35,000 creative professionals and 3,400 customers, we have helped reaffirm the city’s role as a global media capital for over 20 years. The cluster is home to regional and international businesses as well as entrepreneurs and freelancers. Its scope demonstrates how creative professionals at varying stages are increasingly choosing Dubai as a place to set up and create content.
The new visa categories add another pathway to empower freelancers and creative individuals, fuelling Dubai’s ability to lead in producing and exporting high-quality Arabic content. It remains important that we continue providing the best environment and infrastructure to facilitate growth, partnerships and innovation to acknowledge the significance of authentic and targeted Arabic-language content to international audiences.
Offering infrastructure, such as boutique studios and soundstages at Dubai Studio City, freelance packages as part of GoFreelance, or a creativity-focused start-up incubator at in5, is just part of that effort. By enhancing the ease of doing business for major production houses and individual creators, we hope more brands will broadcast high-quality content suited to regional audiences.
What’s just as important – if not more – is ensuring that this vast community of major media giants, such as YouTube Music, Spotify, BBC and CNN, engages, networks and partners with innovative emerging talent. This is where the future of the broadcasting and content creation industry lies.
Regional Arabic content creators are proving they have both the talent and the appetite needed to deliver high-value productions, be they feature-length films or viral TikTok videos, that can capture global attention. This makes fostering a holistic creator-friendly environment more critical than ever as Arabic content stands at the cusp of greater global recognition.
Dubai is already the regional leader for the broadcast, content and media industries. TECOM Group’s media cluster will continue to contribute to the city’s Arabic content export pipeline by ensuring its ecosystem empowers more creators to sustainably scale up and expand both within and beyond the MENA region.
Majed Al Suwaidi is Senior Vice President of Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and Dubai Production City, members of TECOM Group PJSC.