(KHAMEIS AL HEFAITY)
Jamal Al Sharif, Director of Dubai Studio City (DSC), spoke to Emirates Business about plans to continue to build the base of production companies located in the emirate. As part of DSC’s growth plans, it is looking to meet the needs of international firms and make it easier for young talent to live and work in Dubai.
How would you describe the niche Dubai Studio City fills?
We have created an infrastructure that suits the film, broadcasting and TV industries. We are a one-stop-shopping destination for media production companies.
Over the next three years, we look forward to completing a platform for young and talented nationals and Arabs and non-Arab expatriates in the UAE to take advantage of the city in terms of its infrastructure, studios, office buildings and freelance centres.
This will add more value to the city, when such talents integrate and become part of it. We look forward to putting that talent to work to produce more advanced local quality dramas, TV productions and films. Our mission is to create an international state-of-the-art film studio and TV stations at DSC.
What plans do you have for 2008?
We have set a target of a certain number of anchor clients that we are in negotiations with who want to consider Dubai as their headquarters.
Such clients include TV stations and production companies from Egypt, Lebanon, Europe and North America. We currently have more than 750 companies operating from DSC. In production, in general, we have 180 and in broadcasting, we have 81 broadcasters with the capability to broadcast 175 channels.
You have just signed an agreement with Dubai-based du telecommunications to provide uplink services for outside broadcast (OB) vans.
Do you have ambitions to expand into OB vans?
Yes, we have plans to launch OB van garages or warehouses worth Dh100 million for the first time in the Middle East. Up to 15 garages will be built on 150,000sq ft. Such semi-trucks can broadcast 24 channels and they can operate as a TV station anywhere.
A company that specialises in assembling such trucks is in negotiations with us to relocate to Dubai Studio City. Therefore, Dubai could become a gateway to other Gulf states for the new technology since it would be servicing the trucks.
We are in the middle of negotiations to finalise plans and to allow them to assemble such vans and trucks in Dubai. The vans would be mostly Mercedes or Volvo makes, but in the warehouses they would be working to add all of the TV broadcasting equipment requirements.
OB vans are each worth €10 million (Dh52m). The truck can operate 24 HDTV channels from anywhere it is parked. Such specialised trucks may take between six months to a year to be assembled.
Dubai Studio City will be providing OB van garages for the first time to accommodate different sizes.
How many OB vans operate in the UAE today?
There are roughly 25 to 30 OB vans that belong to different TV channels in the UAE. However, when such vans drive to different events and return to their headquarters, they have no place to park or have to take time to arrange for safe and convenient parking.
That is where the role of the new warehouses in DSC will come in to the picture. We have hired a local with an international standard security company, who has done the entire consultancy work for us.
The launch for such warehouses is expected to provide comfort and convenience and attract even more international production companies to move to Dubai. Also, DSC will make revenue from leasing space in the warehouses.
Currently, we just celebrated a few months ago the completion of boutiques studios and there are 31 broadcasting companies that operate from DSC locally and internationally. When the agreement is finalised, the OB van warehouses should be ready to begin service by January 2009.
What future plans does DSC have to attract more talent and to deliver more creative productions?
To attract new talent, we have plans to build “shop houses”. We are creating a unique environment for living in Dubai Studio City.
We have realised that many of the people who work and live in DSC are single and have an average age of 25 to 30. So we plan to design low-cost housing for them with a small showroom inside each unit. Our target tenants will be people who earn between Dh10,000 to Dh20,000 a month.
When will these buildings be complete? How many buildings are you planning to build?
We will start on this project in June and it should be completed by the end of 2009. The property is there and tendering it with the contractors will start soon. The rent range will be between Dh50,000 to Dh70,000 per year.
The total number of buildings will be 40 with two units in each building. It will be an opportunity to put low-cost apartments into the market as a test.
However, we at DSC are looking at building a cluster. We are not opening the door for investors to come and build here; we are just adding more value to the city.
Jamal Al Sharif
Director of Dubai Studio City
Al Sharif was promoted to his current position in February 2007 after serving since 2002 as Dubai Internet City’s Partner Relation Manager. In 2005, Tecom appointed him as project manager of Dubai Studio City. As project manager, he assisted in realising the new media cluster’s business objectives.
Al Sharif holds a Bachelor’s degree in business administration and a Masters degree in international marketing.
Al Sharif has received several recognitions including the Sheikh Rashid’s Award for Educational Excellence. He was nominated by Tecom for the Dubai Government Excellence Programme in the “Best Field Employee” category in 2002.
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