x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Industry gathers for glimpse of the future

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Media Summit has already been labelled as "Davos in the Desert".

Media types like to gather wherever it is most glamorous, from Hollywood to Monaco. Today more than 400 invited guests assembled at Abu Dhabi's The Yas Hotel overlooking the Formula One circuit, not to watch cars but to meet some of the industry's leading players and thinkers. The inaugural Abu Dhabi Media Summit has already been labelled as "Davos in the Desert", but instead of the sound of V8 engines they were listening to media visionaries who could lead them to the "brave new world".

The three-day event is being driven by its group of co-chairs including Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corp; Khaldoon al Mubarak, the chairman of twofour54; and Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, the vice chairman and president of Dogan Media Group. "We are excited to have such a distinguished group of delegates, especially Mr Rupert Murdoch," said Edward Borgerding, the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which publishes The National.

"This summit comes at an interesting moment. We think the discussions will be relevant, interesting and important. People attending are those making important decisions that will change the face of media for generations to come. "Because media touches us every day it has an impact on the world. I am looking forward to what we are going to learn and how we shall participate over the next few days."

There is a similar event in Monaco, more focused on developing markets, but organisers hope that this will become the signature summit for the global media industry. "It is going to be quite a unique summit," said Karim Sabbagh, the global media practice leader at Booz and Company. "This is not just another conference. We lack an industry event to discuss the opportunities and challenges. This gathering is long overdue."

Mr Sabbagh pointed out that the MENA region has between 300 million and 350 million inhabitants, about the population of the US. "Our industry is growing at double digits. By 2015, 40 per cent of MENA region will be connected via broadband access. New media and digital world is going to be very important. "This is a brave new world and we need to be ready for it. A common language [Arabic] creates a great platform from Morocco to Oman. We are at the starting gate of the digital world."

Mr Borgerding agreed: "The Middle East has always been a nexus, a crossroads of East and West." @Email:rwright@thenational.ae