MTV will be AMG's biggest test yet

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Back in September 2005 we reported on the global media ambitions of the Arab Media Group. Not content with its three Dubai-based newspapers and eight radio stations, the government owned organisation wanted more.

Its CEO, Abdullatif Al Sayegh, candidly spoke about AMG's plans to become an international media player.

"I want to see myself sitting in New York in two years from now. I want to have a newspaper in London. We want to be in Tokyo; we want to be in China," he told Campaign .

While his worldwide ambitions may not be realised within the next nine months, no one could accuse him of lethargy in the year-and-a-half since the media group launched. As well as Awraq Publishing and Arabian Radio Network stations, AMG has launched events company Done Events, outdoor advertising firm Shoof, distribution arm Tawseel and printing division Masar.

There are now six subsidiaries under the AMG umbrella and, despite criticism of some of its ventures, most notably its two tabloid-sized newspapers Emirates Today and Emarat Al Youm, Al Sayegh has ploughed on apparently unperturbed.

Now he can tick off another box on his apparently never-ending media shopping list. Television.

While many were away enjoying the festive season, a press release was quietly issued announcing the launch of the Arabian Broadcasting Network and its newly formed subsidiary the Arabian Television Network which, according to the statement, will roll out "a series of satellite TV channels and digital broadcast services".

And as if by magic, three days later another announcement was made proclaiming that the Arabian Television Network is to partner with MTV Networks International to launch MTV Arabiya in the second half of this year.

As Campaign revealed in October, MTV announced plans to launch a Middle East version of the international music channel and is believed to have approached several existing regional broadcasters with a view to working on the project.

The partnership is undoubtedly a coup for AMG. Despite its lack of experience in broadcasting, the decision by MTV to entrust the Dubai-based group with its most prestigious brand over other established TV networks is an indication of the ambition and drive of Al Sayegh and AMG.

But for AMG, which up until now has created and run its own media brands, the MTV franchise will perhaps be the sternest test yet of its management and its ability to deliver content not just for the UAE market, but to markets across the Arabic speaking world.

If AMG is intent on becoming not just a Middle East media powerhouse but a player on the international stage, it will need to show that it can take on the highly-prized MTV brand and match what it does in the rest of the world. And MTV could be just the start of AMG's TV empire. While the group will undoubtedly launch locally developed free-to-air stations, there is speculation that Dubai Media Incorporated's portfolio of channels, which are also owned by the Dubai government and include Dubai TV, Sama Dubai, Dubai Sports Channel and Dubai One, will be folded into the AMG stable. More newspapers and magazines are also in the pipeline.

While Al Sayegh may not be overseeing AMG's business from a Park Avenue office by September, he has enough to keep him busy for the rest of the year. That move to New York could be on the cards in 2008 though.

As the region's advertising, media and PR agencies return to work following the festive and Eid holidays, I would like to wish all a happy and prosperous new year. I would also like to remind you that the deadline for the Campaign Creative Awards is this coming Thursday at 5pm.

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