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Abu Dhabi 2019 | MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority–Abu Dhabi & twofour54, on supporting the cultural ecosystem, key areas of opportunities, and the evolution of the sector.

Maryam Eid AlMheiri
BIOGRAPHY
As the CEO of Media Zone Authority–Abu Dhabi, Maryam Eid AlMheiri is responsible for leading its strategic agenda and building a sustainable media industry that contributes to the economic and cultural development of Abu Dhabi and positions the emirate as a regional focus for global media. In her capacity as CEO of twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s media hub, she facilitates a vibrant community of local and global partners to inspire the most creative and innovative content. A board member of Abu Dhabi Media Company and the Special Olympics UAE, she was named in the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Arab Women list. She holds a TRIUM Global Executive MBA jointly issued by NYU Stern, LSE, and HEC Paris.

What are the strategic priorities for twofour54 Abu Dhabi in 2019, and what is driving these priorities?

Over the last decade, we have built a thriving media ecosystem that has seen continuous growth. Today, we have a unique and vibrant creative community of more than 470 media companies and 580 freelancers. We are home to a mix of leading international brands, including CNN, Red Bee Ericsson and Ubisoft, who work alongside local and regional companies such as Algorythma, Lamsa, Image Nation and Flash Entertainment. Our main priority is to create a sustainable media economy, and in 2019 we will focus on helping our partners take their businesses to the next level. We also recently announced an extension to our entrepreneurship scheme to enable more small businesses to work from home. We will continue to create products and services that help our partners and freelancers focus on their core business and their own growth. We will also continue to support job creation and we are in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to create 10,000 jobs for Emiratis in the private sector. At the media zone, 37% of our partner base is owned and operated by Emiratis who feel the need to be part of a creative community and this is something we will continue to champion. Part of creating a sustainable industry is our investment in youth. We will continue to focus on engaging talent to explore media as a viable career path from a young age. We are extremely proud of our 13,000-strong youth community. We encourage, support and train young people to follow their passion in media. It is also important that we educate our young people on the role that media plays in preserving our culture and identity.

Where do you still see white spaces that represent valid opportunities for prospective companies and investors alike?

We see many opportunities for both companies and investors in Abu Dhabi and across the MENA region. This is a unique time for our region and the scale of opportunity and content creation is unprecedented. This is largely driven by three factors: we have one of the largest youth population in the world; we live in an era where digital media plays an integral role in our everyday lives; and there is a large demand for Arabic content creators.

How do you expect the needs of content creators of the media and entertainment industry to evolve in the medium term?

One of the trends we are experiencing at the moment is with consumers, who increasingly demand instant content gratification. They want more content faster and want it delivered to the quality they expect from high-end productions. This is game changing for content creators who need to be more flexible and cost effective to deliver tight deadlines while still maintaining a benchmark of quality. It is one of the reasons why we have introduced flexible working options as an extension of our entrepreneur scheme. We have also recently reviewed our production and post-production offers so we can offer the quality of our state-of-the-art facilities to partners in a competitive and nimble way. Our role to help our content creation partners take advantage of the growing opportunity. We know from experience that some of the best content comes from collaboration so we are constantly looking for ways to help our partners' network and collaborate. By connecting partners with each other, and through offering products such as the dual license, we help them source more work and secure more opportunities for content creation. Over the next few years, we will see our vision for the future come to life on Yas Island. Our new home will be the ideal base and a destination of choice for the world's most innovative media and technology companies.