Digital Broadcast power list: 6-4

    MBC's Sam Barnett and twofour54's Tony Orsten make the grade.
    Sam Barnett, COO and GM, MBC Group.
    Sam Barnett, COO and GM, MBC Group.

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    Content creators, advertising chiefs and internet pioneers take their place alongside broadcast technology innovators in the inaugural Digital Broadcast power list. The initial inductees will appear on these pages during the coming weeks.

    The list is based on the opinions of our distinguished editorial team and is entirely subjective.
    While we believe this is THE definitive list of regional industry powerbrokers, undoubtedly there will be those with different opinions. If you are one of these readers, we invite you to leave your feedback at the bottom of the page.

    6. Sam Barnett
    COO and general manager, MBC Group

    Sam Barnett has been involved with MBC since 2002. Originally working as a consultant on the launch of what is now the Al Arabiya news channel, today he is the COO and general manager of the MBC Group.

    During his tenure, MBC has developed into one of the most robust commercial broadcasters operating in the Middle East.
    Under Barnett’s supervision, the network has become an expert at positioning and branding its channels and now boasts a portfolio spanning the broad stroke of the region’s diverse population demographic.

    In an interview with Digital Broadcast last month, Barnett claimed that 106 million people were watching MBC channels everyday, a fact that he has leveraged to help steer the organisation through the difficulties of the current economic climate.
    “We are an efficient machine. We’re commercial, we’re profitable, we’re cashflow positive, and we get the ratings,” he says.

    Barnett has also been one of the leading voices calling for greater audience measurement to boost the confidence of advertisers and the coffers of (successful) free-to-air channels.

    5. Tony Orsten
    CEO, twofour54

    Academy Award-winning TV director Tony Orsten, CEO of Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 media precinct, is charged with nurturing the future of Arab content creation.

    The fruit of his and his colleagues’ labour will not be clearly visible for several more years. Despite this, twofour54 has already played a major role in shaping the regional media landscape.

    Hundreds of new jobs have been created both internally and within the organisations that have moved into the media production precinct over the course of the past 12 months.

    “After 30 years of saying take, take, take, I can give it all back to the people here, and hopefully they can benefit and prosper. The young people here have a fabulous opportunity and hopefully we can play a key role in helping them achieve their goals,” says Orsten.

    With a background in new media platforms and content production – including programming aimed specifically at young people – Orsten is well-placed to develop an environment in which young Arab talents are provided with the skillsets to excel in the digital media age.

    4. Antoine Choueiri
    Chairman and CEO, Choueiri Group

    The competition for ad dollars has grown as state broadcasters have taken a more aggressive approach towards chasing these revenues and the number of viable free-to-air channels grows. At the same time, the economic downturn has restricted advertising incomes, increasing competition among the chief beneficiaries.
    The Choueiri Group, led by Antoine Choueiri, manages the ad sales for some of the largest broadcasters in the region, including MBC, LBC and DMI, giving it a direct role in the success – or otherwise – of these networks’ commercial success. Choueiri has played an integral role in the development of the Middle East media industry during his 30 year career. In 2005, he spearheaded the formation of the GCC Association of Advertisers, which includes the biggest spenders in the region including McDonalds and Emirates Airlines. Membership is open solely to companies that spend more than $1 million p.a. on advertising in the GCC.
    Choueiri’s empire comprises 12 subsidiaries covering print, online, radio and billboard advertising, in addition to various TV ad sales businesses. 

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