The launch of the Abu Dhabi Media Zone confirms the UAE capital as the latest city in the region to host its own dedicated media production hub. Digital Broadcast analyses how the project could radically alter the dynamics of the GCC media production sector.
As oil prices climbed over the past two years, Abu Dhabi amassed a great deal of cash wealth. While regional media hubs have evolved in Amman, Dubai and Cairo, the UAE capital appeared to be taking a back seat as far as media industry development was concerned.
The last twelve months have witnessed a major shift in this strategy with the re-launch of the Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) and the announcement of a headline grabbing billion dollar film fund. Last month however, the oil-rich emirate made a host of announcements that involved more than cash injections, and signalled the way forward for the UAE media sector.
Not least of these new developments is the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Media Zone (ADMZ), which will be branded under the name twofour54, a reference to the city's geographical latitude and longitude position.
ADMZ will embrace all forms of content creation with several big names already signed up for the cluster, including many existing tenants of Dubai's Media City (DMC) such as CNN, BBC and Reuters.
The new hub will be based on ‘four pilars': twofour54 tadreeb (training); twofour54 ibtikar (innovation); twofour54 intaj (production) and twofour54 tawasol (communication).
"With twofour54 we are launching a major initiative that will encourage, stimulate and support Arabic content creation by Arabs in the Arab world. Providing a collaborative campus where all types of media companies can work together will see Abu Dhabi become a centre and catalyst for content creation and culture throughout Middle East region and beyond," says Tony Orsten, CEO of twofour54.
"The Abu Dhabi 2030 vision seeks to establish the Emirate as a regional centre for culture with a ‘global capital city' as its hub."
"Providing a collaborative campus where all types of media companies can work together will see Abu Dhabi become a centre and catalyst for content creation and culture throughout Middle East region and beyond," adds Orsten.
The biggest announcement at launch was that CNN would be establishing its fourth international broadcast centre at twofour54 to add to its existing Atlanta, Hong Kong and London facilities.
The BBC will also launch its first international situational training initiative at the new media zone.
As the development becomes more established, ADMC will also relocate its operations to twofour54.
"The Abu Dhabi 2030 vision seeks to establish the Emirate as a regional centre for culture with a ‘global capital city’ as its hub. - Tony Orsten, CEO, twofour54."
ADMC's film international film production unit, Imagenation, also had a busy month in October announcing a US$100 million partnership with National Geographic that will see 10 to 15 films co-produced by the two parties over the next five years.
The fund had earlier declared a collaborative agreement with Hollywood production company Participant Media.
The $250 million deal will again run for five years with a target of 12-18 feature-length projects to be financed.
Participant is no stranger to the region having produced Hollywood blockbuster Syriana in Dubai in 2005.
On the broader impact of the latest spate of developments, the recent ADMC deals represent the arrival of a new Arab media conglomerate that could eventually rival the established players such as Rotana, MBC, LBC and more recently Al Jazeera.
ADMC is not the only Abu Dhabi-based organisation contributing to the advancement of the emirate's importance in the realm of media and communications.
Satellite services provider Yahsat is also expected to confirm this month that its teleport station will be located in Abu Dhabi.
The development will guarantee the broadcast infrastructure that will prove essential for the international networks that are set to establish new facilities at twofour54.
The timeline of all these events is comparable to other media hubs in the region with Dubai, Egypt and Jordan all backing up their production and media industries with uplink stations and associated infrastructure in addition to the necessary production facilities and operational incentives. It is a proven formula in the region.
As twofour54 matures and all these services come online there will be increased competition among the various media zones for tenants.
The mantra of the newcomer has a heavy emphasis on producing content, by Arabs for Arabs, and the 'tadreeb' element of twofour54 will look to increase and expand the domestic media contribution, which coupled with the guaranteed output of the hub's international partners, should secure its future and that of its competitors.