Vice Media Finalizes Middle East Expansion Plans

Company will build full-scale editorial and production studio

Shane Smith was in Abu Dhabi this week to meet with H.E. Noura Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs and chairwoman of Abu Dhabi’s media zone (a.k.a. twofour54). The company is planning to expand its presence in the area shortly with local partner Moby Group.

The targeted service area is the Middle East and North Africa region, commonly referred to as MENA. From the announcement:

“Vice Media’s expansion into the region from the UAE is exciting news for the industry and will help to meet the growing appetite of Arab millennials for world class digital content,” said Al Kaabi. “Twofour54 plays a leading role in enabling the growth of the UAE’s media industry and we look forward to working with Mr. Smith and Vice as the company enters the market here.”

Added Smith: “We’re very excited to launch this joint venture in the hub of the region’s media industry, the UAE. We’ll be building a state-of-the-art production and editorial studio that will tap into the best young filmmakers, journalists and producers from across the region, giving the burgeoning local youth audiences the gold standard of millennial programming.”

Dubai-based Moby Group is an in-kind partner for Vice. Headed by Saad Mohseni, it operates currently in various Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries and was started Mohseni with his two brothers in 2003, humbly, in the form of Afghanistan radio station ArmanFM.

In a recent breakfast conversation, Mohseni recalled the growth of his radio station into a TV outlet, and some early programs:

“We had a show called Taxi. One of our hosts would get into a cab and chat to the driver for 20 to 25 minutes. We had a show called Chai Khaneh (Tea House), a bunch of guys sitting around talking about [the] history of Kabul and the good old days, tall tales, that sort of thing. That show is still going on. We had roundtables, discussion programs; programs on poetry. Fairly simple production values, but people were watching.”

Moby Group expanded initially into Iran in 2009 and, more recently, Ethiopia in 2016.