ABU DHABI, 2nd March, 2023 (WAM) — Abdullah bin Touk Al Mari, Minister of Economy, has underscored the UAE’s commitment to strengthening and expanding the creative economy, which includes media industries, cultural heritage, Writing, publishing, software and video game industries.
These cultural and creative industries already contribute 3.5 percent to the country’s GDP and the government aims to increase this figure to 5 percent by 2031, he said in his opening remarks at a roundtable entitled “Investment Opportunities in the Media Sector” Indicated. Investopia 2023 kicked off on Thursday at the Hilton Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
Joining Al Marri in the roundtable are some of the biggest names in the media industry. These included Mohammed Jalal Al Rayssi, Director General, Emirates News Agency (WAM); Nart Bouran, CEO, International Media Investments Holding; Pierre Choueiri, Chairman and CEO, Choueiri Group; Maaz Sheikh, CEO and Co-Founder, STARZ and Sharjah Media City ( Shams) Managing Director Shihab Al Hammadi and a group of journalists.
Al Marri emphasized the importance of investment in the media sector to the UAE’s economy, not just at the media level. He discussed the country’s strategy to boost the creative economy, with Dubai aiming to increase its contribution to GDP from 2.5% to 5% by 2025, and the UAE seeking to reach 5% within the next eight years.
Creative economy and flexible visas
The minister emphasized that the creative economy including talent, zoning and creation of new media agencies is the future of the economy. He also pointed to the importance of the entertainment industry, especially during the pandemic, as people stay at home and consume more content online.
The Ministry of Economy is undertaking many initiatives aimed at reforming laws and regulations to promote economic growth. “We have recently introduced changes such as allowing 100% ownership and moving returned check laws from a criminal to a civil case. Leadership has also supported the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and the introduction of a visa regime.”
To support the creative economy, the UAE revamped its visa regime, introducing golden visas, green visas and freelance visas to attract talent and support quality jobs and businesses.
“Our next focus is to improve corporate structures and facilitate business operations to attract more investors. The new 100% ownership law will create 275,000 new licenses in 2021 alone, marking a major milestone in the UAE’s history. We expect this trend to continue and contribute to economic growth,” Al Marri said.
The Role of WAM in New Media
The Minister commended the key role played by the Emirates News Agency (WAM) in promoting the future of media and initiating investment in new media. “It is remarkable that a national agency is actively contributing to shaping the future of media. WAM is setting an example for other news organizations, not only in the UAE but elsewhere by pioneering new media initiatives and exploring investment opportunities in this space area.”
five new economies
The minister stated that their current focus is on attracting five new economies that are crucial to the future of the UAE. “The first is the energy transition, given the importance of COP28. The second is fintech and fintech services, followed by logistics and transport, which became even more important after the recent blockade of the Suez Canal.
“We also acknowledge the continued fragmentation of the global order, which is driving manufacturers to locate factories closer to markets. Etihad Rail is a notable development in this regard.
“Additionally, we are working to reform digital trade and boost the creative economy, which has the potential to deliver huge benefits. All of these are important parts of the UAE’s economy.”
The Minister stressed the importance of addressing challenges and finding ways to overcome them. “As we enter the ‘biennial’, our aim is to double the economy, with a focus on the creative economy. For example, we aim to increase its current contribution from 2.5% to 5%. This will involve investing in new media and create special zones to support its development.”
In his speech, WAM Director General Mohammed Jalal Al Rayssi said three main points must be addressed when it comes to the future of investment in the media industry.
Al Rayssi said that the media industry in the UAE is experiencing extraordinary growth due to the establishment of free zones equipped with advanced digital infrastructure and favorable legislation and regulations. The UAE’s business environment has earned the global trust of international media companies, and the country offers a conducive environment for creative industries, making it one of the fastest growing media markets in the world.
According to recent figures, the media and entertainment market in the UAE is expected to reach US$30 billion by 2025, at a projected CAGR of 6.6%. The UAE is also the MENA region’s broadest digital advertising market, with digital ad spending expected to surpass $2.1 billion by the end of the year, he said.
Al Rayssi said digital media including digital advertising, social media and streaming services represented the future of the media industry. According to PwC, the global media and entertainment services industry will expand to $2.6 trillion by 2025. Web, search portals and social media are expected to generate $542 billion in revenue by 2025. Furthermore, a report by the SPC revealed that the UAE’s publishing industry is expected to grow by 150% to reach $650 million by the end of the decade. Notably, the UAE accounts for 25% of the total number of digital streaming subscriptions in the MENA region.
rapid global transformation
Jalal Al Rayssi said that the world is experiencing the fastest and most advanced technological revolution in human history. “As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, the media industry, advanced technology and big data are rapidly evolving. Therefore, more innovative investment in the media sector is required. Currently, digital media, e-sports and podcasting are booming, which is very important for investors. It is an attractive investment opportunity.”
Media Digital Transformation
The Director General of WAM highlighted the growing importance of artificial intelligence in the media industry, with “Grand View Research” estimating that the global media and entertainment artificial intelligence market will reach $100 billion by 2030. Increasing digitization has also led to significant growth in global digital advertising, which is expected to reach $526 billion by 2024.
Furthermore, he added, media competitiveness is closely related to its development, professionalism and reliability. “The Emirates News Agency stands out as one of the world’s foremost media organizations. Through several strategic partnerships with major global media organizations, the agency strengthens its presence on the international stage and becomes a trusted media source .”
During the roundtable, Nart Bouran spoke about the media ecosystem and how new media can create opportunities for recent graduates. He emphasized the importance of economic viability and diversification of investment in the industry. He also pointed out that commercial and financial success is a common goal of all industry players. In the UAE, the media industry is seen as a cluster of interrelated businesses rather than just a collection of individual news channels. Therefore, the industry must be considered as a whole.
Pierre Choueiri, chairman and CEO of the Choueiri Group, highlighted major changes in the advertising industry, stating that “99.9% of our business has changed and the old ways have been replaced.” He highlighted the impact of digital disruption, as well as its How has changed traditional advertising methods that no longer appeal to consumers. According to Choueiri, the future of the industry lies in generating revenue from the entertainment sector.
Maaz Sheikh, CEO and co-founder of STARZ shared that when they started their business, it was a very challenging time as it was difficult to predict consumer behavior during times of change. However, the ecosystem has changed and they are now launching an original Arabic production, AZ, which is entirely produced, written and completed in the UAE. The show has more unique users per day than the entire output of any of the Big Four Hollywood studios on its platform.
Shihab Al Hammadi, Managing Director of Sharjah Media City (Shams), discusses the emergence of new media and how new tools are becoming a trend. When Shams entered the market, they identified what was missing and what people were looking for, which led them to create a solution to the problems Sharjah TV was facing at the time.
One of their most interested clients, he said, are freelancers looking for an easy-to-reach company with a low cost of entry and a streamlined process. “Shams provides exactly that, allowing customers to simply share their plans and let Shams handle the rest. As a result, many companies have taken off from Shams.”
Shihab Al Hammadi also mentioned that they are working on merging the free zones into normal economic sectors, which will happen soon. During the COVID-19 pandemic, free zones have become a refuge for companies looking to cut costs.
Several panellists highlighted the problem of piracy of media content on social media platforms and emphasized the importance of government regulation to address this issue.