Big media chasing money isn’t new. That they’re coming to the oil-rich desert nations of late, is. More specifically, at the call of Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), the cash-rich media and investment company owned by the local government, they’re converged here for the next three days, at the man-made Yas Island, home of the recently constructed Formula 1 track here in Abu Dhabi, in UAE. The very futuristic Yas Hotel, built over the F1 track, is the venue for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Media Summit, where Rupert Murdoch will open the proceedings later this evening. Other big names in the show include Steve Ballmer, James Murdoch, Eric Schmidt, Tim Armstrong, Jon Miller, Maurice Levy, among others. And someone whispered a few royalties into my ear as well, though remains to be whether they actually show up: Queen Rania of Jordan, and Prince Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, one of the largest individual shareholders in News Corp.
At stake are a few complementary agendas: how do the multinational media giants tap into the still-nascent and closed middle-east media and digital market? Conversely, how does a small Emirate like Abu Dhabi, till recently overshadowed by the glitzy Dubai, attract these companies for investment and presence in this region, to expand beyond its dependence on oil? Then perhaps more urgent at this point, how do these cash-strapped media giants attract these sovereign wealth funds? ADMC’s recent investment in online music video JV service Vevo is one example. This WSJ story has a deeper explanation of the significance of the market.