MBC chairman Sheikh Waleed al-Ibrahim said the group is conducting a thorough study into starting a movie production business -- the first production unit of an Arab satellite channel.
In an extended interview with the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Sunday, the Saudi businessman said the new unit will aim to produce 5-6 feature films a year.
MBC has a track record of innovative TV channels catering to different audience segments, with Wanasa music channel and MBC Action being the most recent additions.
Al-Ibrahim, who was named “Innovator of the Year” at the Arabian Business Awards in December, said the field of cinema would be totally new ground for the Dubai-based broadcaster.
"There are 200 million people who speak the same language, which makes Arabic cinema a productive business. But, piracy and intellectual property violations are among the most significant challenges the Arab movie industry is facing. This makes the profit of movie production very minimal."
As for launching local channels, after adopting for a long time the motto of "The world through Arab eyes," al-Ibrahim said that in light of the group's constant efforts to innovate, this is a possibility that would focus on local issues in order to be as close as possible to Arab audience.
"These new channels could be established in North Africa, Kuwait, and Palestine," he said.
When asked how the channels would compete with state-run broadcasters, al-Ibrahim said competition always exists, but what matters is not who owns the channel, but what it offers.
"Some government channels constitute a financial burden on the state, which upsets the competitive balance. We always believe that the public sector cannot compete with the private since the former does not have enough funding. The public sector should support the private and provide it with a suitable work environment. That's what happens in all big industries locally and internationally."
Al-Ibrahim said it is not unlikely that the group might launch a moderate Islamic channel that would present something different from what is currently on air.
Al-Ibrahim also said that Al Arabiya News Channel has achieved much success, bearing in mind that it was established less than five years ago.
"The most significant success the channel achieved is creating a new methodology amongst other news channels, which made it a role model and a school of high quality journalistic professionalism."
Al-Ibrahim added that the main policy that Al Arabiya follows is credibility and the realistic handling of news and events.
"Al-Arabiya almost achieved perfection with its political, economical, sports, and cultural diversity. And we expect more from it."
On the possibility of having an English version of Al Arabiya, al-Ibrahim answered in the affirmative, but added that generally news channels are not very profitable and that an English channel will be even more costly, as it would require foreign expertise.
He denied rumors that MBC is not doing enough to keep its employees and that other channels are taking its staff: "On the contrary, we are proud of attracting the most prominent media talents in the Arab world, whether veterans or juniors. This is due to the healthy working environment as well as attractive salaries."
Al-Ibrahim added that MBC often comes out ahead: "By the way, many people who left MBC tried other places, then came back."
Asked whether MBC Group is planning to go public with its shares, al-Ibrahim said that all options are being studied, including an IPO, merger or acquisition.
"This depends on what is more suitable for the group as far as investment, experience, and content are concerned."
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).