Media City undergoing expansion to meet demand
Dubai Media City, a member of TECOM Investments, has registered an annual growth rate between 30 and 40 per cent, both in the number of companies as well as gross area leased, according to Mohamed Al Mulla, Director of Dubai Media City. The growth rates are expected to continue at the current pace – or even move up – over the next five years as more private sector investors demonstrate a keenness to establish their presence at the media domain, Al Mulla said told Emirates Business in an interview.
Dubai Media City, which hosts nearly 30 buildings of different sizes, boasts around 1,200 companies from diverse media segments with more than 400 companies on its waiting list for office space. More than 450 titles are published from the media cluster, which is used as a transmission base by about 160 satellite TV stations.
Al Mulla pointed out construction is currently under way on 27 towers being developed by private investors within the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone, with one new tower being completed every three months to meet the increasing demand.
In addition, 70 buildings have been completed in the ‘C’ area that will ultimately feature 160 buildings. In the next two years, 10 hotels are scheduled to open at the cluster. There are currently three hotels within the free zone.
Al Mulla emphasised all free zones in the cluster, including the Dubai Media City, have benefited from Dubai’s strategic plans in ‘merging’ identical sectors and providing the necessary infrastructure. Dubai Media City, which celebrated its seventh anniversary last month, is ready to launch an industry-focused training programme for media professionals, the first of its kind in the region. Companies operating from Dubai Media City will be accorded priority participation at the programme.
Emirates Business: With the demand for office space at Dubai Media City rising significantly, what are the future plans of the city?
Al Mulla: Starting with just three buildings at its inception in January 2001, Dubai Media City has registered consistent growth.
Today it hosts more than 30 buildings and several towers. In addition, work is under way on 27 towers within the TECOM Investments premises by private sector investors. These include 10 towers in the final phases of completion. One tower is handed over to the free zone authority every three months, helping us meet the strong demand for office space.
Dubai Media City earlier had Business Centres 1 and 2 for independent media people or start-up companies. Business Centre 3 became operational recently, and is spread over three floors in Al Thuraya Tower-II. The first floor has already opened for business, the second floor has opened this month and the third is set to begin functioning next month. All the units of this centre have been booked well in advance prior to its opening. That is the kind of market demand we have to deal with at the Dubai Media City. In addition, construction work is under way in the ‘C’ area. The area will feature 160 buildings, of which nearly 70 per cent have been completed. These buildings will be completed in two years. Construction work is also under way on seven more hotels within the TECOM Investments boundaries, which will bring the total number of hotels to 10 by the end of next year. Among these will be one hotel with 1,200 furnished apartments, the largest in Dubai.
Which media segment is the most represented in Dubai Media City? What is the total number of registered companies?
Printing, publishing and news broadcasting are the most prominent segments. At present there are nearly 1,200 registered companies including 335 independent media people. More than 450 titles are published from Dubai Media City, compared to 60 to 80 in the UAE in general, prior to the creation of the media free zone. This unprecedented growth necessitated the delivery of specialised services for this sector. As a response, one of the first outcomes was the International Media Production Zone, which already features several high-profile entities from the printing, publishing and packaging (3P) sector, as well as the graphic arts industry. Dubai Studio City was established along the same lines to serve the needs of 160 satellite TV broadcasters operating from Dubai Media City. The broadcast sector needs customised industry-specific services, and our surveys and market research indicated an urgent need for a dedicated zone to cater to this segment of the media.
Dubai Studio City was the direct result of exceptional growth in the broadcast segment, especially in the number of satellite stations. It is an ultra-modern, integrated facility to accelerate the growth of the film production and broadcast industries. Offering state-of-the-art infrastructure, it also features specialised and professional studios to meet the needs of film and TV production companies. Those companies already based in the Dubai Media City have been encouraged to open offices or branches in Dubai Studio City or even move their entire operations there.
Dubai Studio City’s Location Approval Services (LAS) department is authorised to issue licences and permits for external filming in the emirate. An official decree issued by the Dubai Executive Council gives LAS the sole authority to issue permissions for various filming and photography activities in Dubai. LAS provides customised services and co-ordinates with other government bodies such as Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality and the Department of Civil Aviation to facilitate filming in the UAE by local and foreign firms.
Dubai Media City used to host world events and activities for strengthening the media sector in the UAE. What are the most prominent activities the city is set to attract?
Having emerged as one of the leading destinations for all segments of the media, we are now concentrating more on professional, industry-specific services rather than merely serving as a business venue for international companies. We currently organise specialised trade events such as the Media and Marketing Show, which concluded recently in Dubai. We have succeeded in bringing to Dubai the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. The three-day event, which has been held in Cannes for 65 years, saw the distribution of advertising and media awards in Dubai last year. The next edition, to be called Dubai International Advertising Festival, will be organised at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre in March.
What are your expectations regarding the continuous demand for the city? What are the growth rates of the city?
As mentioned earlier, Dubai Media City’s annual growth rate ranges between 30 and 40 per cent. We believe the next five years will witness record growth following the entry of private sector investors.
Does Dubai Media City play any role in spreading the concept of ‘SmartCity’ as part of TECOM Investments’ plans?
The responsibility for spearheading the ‘SmartCity’ concept lies collectively with Dubai Media City, the Dubai Internet City and the Dubai Knowledge Village, all key components of TECOM Investments. SmartCities all over the world will be visualised on the lines of the three specialised parks, and epitomise a significant hub of excellence in the knowledge-based industry.
There are some complaints – particularly from independent media people – about the rising operational and business costs in Dubai Media City. What is your response to this?
As a regional and international media hub, Dubai Media City firmly believes in the importance of being a cost-effective destination while keeping pace with developments in the industry. Operational and business costs at Dubai Media City are competitive and reflect the market’s demand and supply matrix. In addition, we continuously strive to offer excellent service, proven by the growing number of companies at Dubai Media City.
How many companies are on your waiting list?
There are nearly 400 large, medium and small companies on our waiting list.
What is the exit rate of the companies operating in the city?
The number of companies leaving Dubai Media City is probably below the one per cent mark, which is extremely impressive and quite difficult to achieve when rated on a global scale. Such a satisfaction rate also demonstrates the world-class standard of services and the excellent benefits the media cluster offers, making it an attractive base for companies seeking to establish a footprint in the region.
Is Dubai Media City still organising marketing campaigns to attract companies from outside the region?
Although we do organise specialised marketing campaigns, we are more keen to mark a presence at global conferences and events that focus on the eight sectors of Dubai Media City.
Our objective is to target the international market, as we are driven by the objective of attracting more global media brands for the holistic benefit of the region.
What are the latest initiatives Dubai Media City is gearing up to launch?
We will soon launch a high-level training programme for media people. The first of its kind in the Arab world, it is globally considered as one of the most effective programmes to raise the bar of media productivity and quality. A limited number of seats will be allocated for this programme, in which preference will be given to Dubai Media City-based companies. In addition, substantial changes have been made to the administrative structure of Dubai Media City to upgrade its standard of services.
How did Dubai Media City benefit from Dubai Government’s strategic drive to achieve a high level of growth in many sectors?
Across its spectrum of offerings, Dubai aims to create a conducive environment that facilitates the growth of diverse sectors through the provision of world-class infrastructure. All free zones including Dubai Media City, as well as other companies operating in Dubai, have benefited from Dubai’s comprehensive economic boom that has covered all sectors, and has led to what can be termed as an ‘ingenious fruition’ of successful growth policies.
Mohamed Al Mulla, Director, Dubai Media City
As director, Mohamed Al Mulla heads Media City’s key functions including strategy development, sales and partner relations. He was previously Director of Sales and Director of Partner Relations for Media City. He was instrumental in the development of several innovative support services for companies.
Al Mulla was part of the initial team who developed the concept of a ‘City’ that provides an environment, infrastructure and business-enabling services for the media industry. He has also played a key role in bringing many global media giants to Dubai Media City.
Prior to joining Media City, Al Mulla worked for telecom service provider etisalat.
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