Industry: Media & Marketing
Company: MBC - Middle East Broadcasting Corporation
Country: Saudi Arabia
Wealth: 2.9 Billion
A brother-in-law of the late HRH King Fahd, Sheikh Walid Al Ibrahim has built a vast fortune on the strength of his MBC satellite network, perhaps the most influential in the Arab world.
Upon its launch back in 1991, MBC became the first Arab broadcaster to offer a free-to-air 24-hour network. Immediately innovative, the network was independent and swiftly became the undoubted market leader in bringing news and quality family entertainment programming to more than 130 million Arabic-speaking people around the world. And as was the case then, Al Ibrahim is certainly at the forefront of the station’s development.
That’s not to say there weren’t mistakes along the way. MBC was late to develop a 24-hour news channel, so the Qataris beat him to the punch and launched the hard-hitting and sometimes controversial market leader, Al Jazeera.
However, with typical intelligence, Al Ibrahim set out to recapture the market, and launched Al Arabiya news channel before the invasion of Iraq six years ago. The timing couldn’t have been better, and although there were early rumblings of discontent at the channel’s perceived pro-American stance, it has since gained a loyal audience.
Al Arabiya also has the advantage of not having displeased key governments across the region. While Al Jazeera is barred from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and has upset officials in Jordan, Algeria, the Palestinian Authority and Kuwait, Al Ibrahim’s network has maintained amicable relationships with governments.
Its journalists are tolerated throughout the Arab world, and the tone of the channel — perhaps less sensationalist than its Qatari competitor — has ensured its ubiquity.
Today, less than two decades after its launch, MBC Group is much larger than just its news network and is developing into a veritable media powerhouse. Its profitability and viewer numbers continue to soar, which has led to even greater innovations destined to capture the attention of young and old, for many decades to come.