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Murdoch moves in on the Middle East

Murdoch moves in on the Middle East

The launch of Fox International’s hub in Abu Dhabi illustrates the media mogul’s desire for regional expansion.

March 7, 2010 1:54 by

And Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp, certainly aims to cash in on this growth: in February this year, the company announced that it bought a 9.09 percent stake in Saudi’s Rotana Group for $70 million; News Corp has an option to further increase its stake to 18.18 percent in the 18 months following completion of the deal. Rotana, owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has rights to more than 2,000 Arabic movies and also owns the region’s largest library of Arabic music.

“A stake in Rotana expands our presence in a region with a young and growing population, where GDP growth is set to outstrip that of more developed economies in the years ahead,” James Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Europe and Asia at News Corp said in a statement at the time.

News Corp and Rotana already have close ties. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s firm, Kingdom Holding, holds the second biggest stake in News Corp. And in 2008 the two companies launched two free-to-air English language channels – Fox Movies and Fox Series – in the Middle East. In December last year, Rotana and FIC also entered an AED100 million ($27 million) multi-year deal with the Walt Disney Company, to broadcast of Disney content in the region through Fox Series and Fox Movies.

According to Rohit D’Silva, general manager of FIC in the Middle East, the two Fox channels have done well since their launch. “It’s been remarkable. When we came in, lots of people in the market didn’t really think we will get anywhere because the whole free-to-air movie was a near monopoly in the region. But we have broken it,” he told Kipp when announcing the Disney deal last year.

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