At the Dubai Media City office, we’re scouting for the best location for the shoot, with a leader heading up an eclectic media portfolio. There are two options, one is the lobby, but it’s too noisy being close to the elevators, and the other is a room with a view of a lake and fountain. It’s beautiful, but the sun is overexposed on the camera. We go with a third, a majlis with a view of the lobby.
Majed Al Suwaidi arrives on time with a smile, “Are we ready?” he asks. Heading an industry intrinsic to disruption, the Managing Director of Dubai Media City, Dubai Production City, and Dubai Studio City sits down to chat about the next big thing in media.
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Talking about the industry’s evolution, Al Suwaidi says it’s important to recognize that it took years of hard work to be where DMC is today. “The media industry is volatile and requires new integration of technology, with the emergence of new ideas and ways of approaching customers over the years,” he adds. Constant change has made the industry more volatile and to “aggressive development” over the years.
With the changes in the demands of the media industry, there have been changes in policies, laws, and infrastructure. Over the years, industry dynamics shifts led to the creation of three different entities—Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, and Dubai Production City, an integrated media ecosystem launched by TECOM Group PJSC. “Earlier, we were more inward-looking. Now, our eyes are on the global market overall,” Al Suwaidi says, in light of the new strategies and policies to support innovation in the ecosystem.
SUPPORTING BUDDING TALENT
He says that supporting entrepreneurs from small or medium enterprises is the purpose of DMC. The establishment of business incubators like in5, introducing freelance visas through GoFreelance, and Golden visas for the creative community have helped talent flock to the city.
“I think there are a lot more stories that need to be sent out to the world. There are many opportunities in Dubai for people to take advantage of going forward with film, studios, and gaming companies coming into the DMC ecosystem.”
COLLABORATION KEY TO THE ECOSYSTEM
“The idea of Dubai Media City and the different clusters we own – Dubai Production City and Dubai Studio City – is based on how we can leverage partnerships,” he says. DMC’s partnerships with CNN, Reuters, Discovery Channel, and Fox have played a critical role in shaping the media landscape. These international partners within our jurisdictions are playing their part in giving back to the community,” he adds.
Mentioning these partnerships are multi-pronged, with some focus on supporting young, up-and-coming producers with workshops on technicalities of production or tackling subjects intrinsic to content creation. The beauty of Dubai Media City is that companies here give back to the content creators’ community, enabling them to upgrade their skill set and produce content. Hopefully, this content will go global and be monetized on a larger scale,” Al Suwaidi says.
Given the level of investment into infrastructure and facilities to attract and retain talent at DMC, Al Suwaidi says, “production is the next entrepreneurial playground.”
CHANNELING OTT SUPPORT
The number of homegrown OTT channels having Arab content is still in the minority compared to the international channels’ reach. Yet the OTT players in the region represent the nation’s diversity and viewing preferences, he says, adding there is a need for the industry to work hand in hand.
“Without all players working together, the industry will not grow.” When it comes to OTT players’ involvement, “more needs to happen,” he says. Highlighting how OTT can provide more opportunities for local content creators to tell their stories and the potential of the city in leading local talent, he says, “Today, we have more than 160 nationalities in Dubai Media City; each one is going to tell a story from a different angle, which is very important for their audiences around the world.”
CREATIVITY, INSPIRATION, AND ASPIRATION
“If you are not creative in the media city,” he says laughingly, “you will become obsolete,” adding that it’s crucial to foster creativity in everyday decisions. Dubai, he says, has always been creative in its approach. The city has been a constant compass for creativity. And his vision and work at the entities he heads are steered by one mantra, he says, “Change is an imminent factor that we need to focus on.
Change is the main factor in knowing if we are on the right track or not. Change regardless of how good we are at a certain time. And we need to test and try new things,” he adds. “Testing while you are at the top of your game is crucial. Do your research, change your product, and be ready for what’s next.”
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