Digital Broadcast Power List-Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud
There are numerous reasons why Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud deserves the top spot in our first ever power list. The argument can be broadly split in two; his work within the Middle East media industry and his influence outside it.
The latter can be summarised in one sentence: Fourth largest shareholder in News Corp and the largest outside the Murdoch family.
This gives Alwaleed a stake in more than 50 TV channels, four pay TV networks, 110 newspapers in Australia, four national newspapers in the UK, The Wall Street Journal, 10 major US movie studios, seven publishing houses (including the HarperCollins stable, twofour54 tenants) and a number of other interests including the Hulu online video platform, MySpace and conditional access developer NDS.
The Prince’s strong relationship with Murdoch was cemented last year with the launch of two FTA channels – Fox Movies and Fox Series – showing News Corp content but with the ad sales and administration handled by Rotana.
Last month it was revealed that News Corp had taken a 10 percent stake in Rotana with the option to increase this to 20 percent in the future.
The Prince’s Kingdom Holdings Company also has more modest stakes in Disney and TimeWarner.
Aside from Prince Alwaleed’s influence at Rupert Murdoch’s international media conglomerate, his own media giant, Rotana, also enjoys immense success in the Arab world.
The Rotana music label dominates multiple genres of Arabic music. This success has been further exploited through the creation of Rotana music TV channels promoting its artists and generating revenue from SMS interactions and mobile content sales. Unfortunately, the company operates in a market rife with piracy. According to Yousef Mugharbil, president of Rotana Digital, piracy costs the company $1 for every $1 it makes. That the company has been able to achieve what it has in spite of this, is doubly impressive.
Rotana Movies meantime has established itself as a leader in the Arabic-language movie market holding the rights to 70 percent of all Arab films ever produced. The Rotana Cinema channel is viewed on a variety of cable networks with a number of partners offering a selection of Rotana-branded channels to Arab Diasporas across the world.
In 2010, Rotana will bolster its presence in the FTA TV market with the launch of as many as three HD channels.
The Prince’s international influence and reputation, combined with his ability to make major contributions to the regional media industry by attracting foreign investment, demonstrate why he is recognised as the region’s top media magnate.