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Sat 18 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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No sight of slowdown

New media technology specialists are eyeing the Middle East as they shore up their business internationally.

With regional economies still riding high despite tempered oil prices and the credit crunch that has brought larger economies to bear in the West, it is of little surprise that new media technology specialists are increasingly eyeing the Middle East as more than another ‘emerging market' as they look to shore up their business internationally.

The unprecedented financial liquidity brought about by record oil prices has enabled the region's biggest corporations, including major media players such as the UAE's Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) and Saudi-based Rotana, to expand their interests both at home and abroad.

ADMC recently committed to investing more than US$1 billion over the next five years with the stated goal of establishing its new Imagenation subsidiary as a major player in the international film and television production industry.

The organisation also revealed it would establish a $250 million fund in partnership with Los Angeles-based Participant Media.

The developments capped off an unprecedented period of growth for the organisation, which commenced with the launch of UAE broadsheet daily The National in April and was punctuated by the launch of the region's first licensed online content delivery service, GETMO.

Meanwhile, industry giant Rotana, which is owned by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, has been investing heavily both in the region and internationally, buying a controlling stake in Lebanese media player LMH Group in July and signing a lucrative deal with News Corporation to launch a slate of Fox-branded TV channels in the Middle East.

The first fruits of this collaboration, Fox Movies, is currently going head-to-head with established rival MBC for ad dollars in the popular 24-hour movie channel market.

Speaking of MBC, the Saudi-owned satellite TV channel operator is also exploring various opportunities in new media provision, having tied with telecommunications heavyweight Etisalat to deliver broadcast content online to UAE users during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

These developments combined, unheard of less than a decade ago, reflect the vitality and ambition inherent to the region's media production and broadcast industries. As can be said of the Middle East's remarkable economic development, it also clearly demonstrates what can be achieved given proper planning, and more importantly, access to massive financial resources.

With developments such as high definition television, interactive and mobile TV, and expanded IPTV facilities all clearly on the radar, the Middle East media sector, and regional consumers, are set to benefit from this exciting period in the industry's development.

Aaron Greenwood is the senior group editor of ITP Publishing Group's IT, broadcast & communications magazines.