x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

New chief executive named for Arab world's largest television network

Promotion of Sam Barnett to chief executive of MBC is expected to 'unify the strategy' of the Arab world's biggest TV broadcaster.

MBC, the Arab world's largest television broadcaster, has promoted Sam Barnett to chief executive, a role previously assumed by the group's chairman, Sheikh Waleed Al Ibrahim.

Mr Barnett, who has worked at MBC for nine years, oversaw the launch of several channels and initiatives such as the outsourcing of the group's advertising-sales operation.

Mr Barnett held the post of chief operating officer and general manager prior to his promotion.

Nick Grande, the managing director of ChannelSculptor, a television consultancy in Dubai, said Mr Barnett's promotion was in recognition for building a "dominant" television company.

Mr Grande said it was likely that Sheikh Waleed would "continue to be personally interested" in the day-to-day management of MBC.

The broadcaster, which claims to reach more than 100 million viewers on an average day, is currently running 10 channels including MBC1 and the Al Arabiya news station.

Ali Ajouz, an independent media consultant based in the UAE, said the appointment of Mr Barnett would help to "unify the strategy of MBC".

MBC, which is owned by Saudi Arabian investors but based in Dubai, is said to take in the lion's share of the Arab world's total TV advertising, worth more than US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) a year.

Mr Ajouz said although it was the market leader, MBC faced a number of market challenges.

"To stay at number one is probably the greatest challenge for MBC," he said.

Levels of advertising spending, the launch of other channels and broader economic issues will be key to remaining on top, said Mr Ajouz.

Earlier this year, MBC launched a number of its channels in high-definition (HD). Although the channels are free, viewers must buy a special set-top box to receive them.

Mr Ajouz said it would take time until a significant proportion of viewers buy the HD box.

"It will take at least six to seven years … to roll out that number of HD receivers," he said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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