Dubai Media City, a member of TECOM Investments’ Media Cluster, in conjunction with Dubai Press Club (DPC), recently hosted a panel discussion on Local Content and Migration to Digital Platforms. The event focused on the growing importance of digital platforms, their impact on the global print media industry, and the penetration of digital media in the GCC countries.

The initiative comes as part of a series of discussions organized by DPC to highlight the key outcomes of the fourth edition of Arab Media Outlook 2011-2015. Examining latest trends in the media sector across 17 Arab countries, the report particularly studies the media consumption pattern in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco.

The panel discussion featured Santino Saguto, Partner and Consultant, Deloitte; Shadi Al Hasan, Managing Director and Founder, Flagship Projects; Bilal Hijjawi, Managing Editor, Fortune Arabia, and Mohammed Burhan, CEO, CNBC – Arabia. The session was moderated by Mamoon Sbeih, Managing Director, APCO Worldwide – Arab Region.

Shadi Al Hasan said: “Unlike other sectors, local content primarily relies on topics relevant to local communities. Such content cannot be imported from the overseas media. Therefore it is imperative for media decision makers and content providers to work together to create quality and distinctive local content. In response to the growing demand for such programming, the industry is witnessing a steady increase in the output of regional media organizations, as well as investments from foreign broadcasters.

“Tracking some early results on the commercial returns of local content, we believe that the success achieved to date can be widened in scope and shared with international markets. A good example of this is Rufoof, the first mobile platform for Arabic e-books.”

Bilal Hijjawi said: “We cannot separate content from language as each relies on the other for successful indigenous local programming. In order to distinguish themselves from the competition, several countries and media companies are in the process of developing a distinct presence on the internet: an essential move given the phenomenal reach of digital content. The trend has opened doors for active economic and investment opportunities and contributes to enriching the region’s information and knowledge economies.”

Santino Saguto commented: “The report encompasses a thorough examination of the Arab media scene, providing valuable insights into sector trends that exist in this region. Deloitte’s role has been to gather and analyse, from multiple sources and stakeholders, a broad range of region-specific quantitative and qualitative data, to be able to give the Arab reader significant results. The industry has greatly benefitted from this report, particularly the accurate results that it offers. Transition to digital platforms is analyzed in detail with total advertising spend in the region estimated to grow from 4 per cent in 2011 to 10 per cent in 2015.”

Examining the strategies deployed by the media in the UAE and the region to deal with content, Mohammed Burhan said: “Local content has witnessed a growing interest from domestic players represented by media institutions in the Arab world. This is obvious from the increasing number of joint projects that are being implemented by regional broadcasters in conjunction with international media groups. Moreover, the investment strategies of some global players are increasingly focused on specialised sectors of the market, which currently suffers from a lack of local content.”

In a departure from earlier editions, the fourth Arab Media Outlook included the youth market in its research study, alongside the organizational sector. This inclusion results from recent correlations established between youth and the media industry. In an effort to identify the main challenges currently faced by the media industry, numerous surveys covering a broad range of topics were conducted. Additionally, 140 senior representatives from prominent media organisations across the Arab world were interviewed in order to build as accurate a picture as possible, and to ensure expert viewpoints were incorporated in the research results.

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