LONDON: Sam Barnett has resigned as the CEO of MBC Group after 17 years at the region’s biggest broadcaster.
The Dubai-based company behind hit show ‘Arabs Got Talent’ has yet to name his successor.
His departure comes at a challenging time for the region’s big traditional broadcasters who face increasing competition from the booming video on demand sector and new entrants from Netflix to Amazon.
“MBC was the first big broadcaster in the Arab world. It is still the biggest in the region and brought satellite broadcasting to the Arab world. It brought international shows too, and could arguably be seen as the biggest westernizing influence on GCC youth,” said Austyn Allison, the editor of Campaign Middle East.
“It is now looking more to video on demand. It’s up against global giants such as Netflix, but has the edge with its Arabic content, especially the stuff it produces itself. Shows like ‘Arabs Got Talent’ have been huge hits, and it has also been a pioneer of branded content in the region over the years, integrating brands into TV shows with increasing sophistication.”
MBC chairman Waleed Al-Ibrahim paid tribute to Barnett’s contribution to the company in a memo to staff.
“It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that I would like to inform you of the resignation of our dear colleague Sam Barnett as CEO of MBC Group,” he said.
“Since 2002, Sam has played a pivotal role in the development and great success of the group, leading by example with ambition, resilience, fairness and high standards of integrity and humility, achieving numerous significant accomplishments in the process.”
Barnett will continue to work with the company in an advisory role from January 2020 “focusing on strategy-related matters,” Al-Ibrahim added.
MBC has been investing heavily in creating more homegrown Arabic-language drama comes as global video on demand players from Netflix to Amazon eye the Middle East as a potentially lucrative and under-served market.