How does MBC make money?

I've been watching MBC 4 and MBC 2 lately. For those of you that don't know what MBC is, its a free TV station which is available here in the Middle East. They have MBC 1, 2, 3, 4, Action, MAX, MBC + Drama, MBC Persia and Al Arabiya. The English-language channels are:

MBC 2 (movies)
MBC 3 (sometimes english, but its a kids tv chanel)
MBC 4 (Seems to be entirely devoted to women's programs)
MBC Action (Action tv shows, some movies)
MBC Max (movies)
MBC Persia (Usually older tv shows from the 90's and some movies)

The Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) is a Saudi-run company broadcasting a mix of free-to-air news and entertainment channels via satellite. It was launched on September 18, 1991 as the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, initially broadcasting from London in the United Kingdom. Since 2002, its headquarters have been in Dubai Media City, United Arab Emirates.

So now you all know what MBC is. So now I raise the question - How do they make money? There is rarely any adverts on the channels - they just advertise their own programming in the commercial breaks. Occasionally Coca Cola will run an advert, but not very frequently, and I've been watching closely lately during prime time in the evenings and have failed to see a single commercial. Not one. How does a broadcasting company continue to operate with no advertising income?

The network is rumoured to be owned by the Saudi Royal family, but again, why burn money on something that just isn't generating any cash, and broadcasts in English? I reckon it's a big money laundering operation for some shady gun-runners! Or something. But seriously, running a TV network with 9 24 hour channels (ok MBC + Drama is a subscription channel available via Showtime) costs some serious cash - why would that much cash be burned up?

Just as an off-shoot to this blog, I thought I'd just talk briefly about what is going on with English Language TV here in the middle east.

There were, until very recently, 2 major English-language pay-tv subscription services - Orbit, and Showtime. Showtime have recently bought-out Orbit, and thus now have a monopoly on English-Language subscription services in the Middle East.

But, there are actually quite a few decent English language stations available for free:

  1. BBC News 24
  2. Al Jazeera International
  3. CNN
  4. Press TV
  5. MBC 2
  6. MBC 4
  7. MBC Action
  8. MBC Max
  9. MBC Persia
  10. Fox Series
  11. Fox Movies
  12. MTV Arabia
  13. Dubai One
  14. Dubai Sports
  15. KTV 2
  16. Infinity
  17. Al Jazeera Sports 1-3
  18. Boomerang Channel
  19. City 7
  20. CCTV 9
So, as you can see, if you are only reasonably interested in watching TV, there are plenty of free channels available out there that do not need a Showtime subscription (which is about US $50/month for the top tier).

But, coming back to MBC. How exactly are they making any money on this network? Do they even have a marketing team in place?

le fin
How does MBC make money? How does MBC make money? Reviewed by Sythe on Monday, September 14, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. And what has happened to Dubai Sports 2???? I can't find it on my new showtime / orbit box!!!

  2. The Arabic MBC channel (MBC 1) is one of the Arabic channels with the most ads. But I'm not sure if MBC1's ads would be enough to run all the other channels.

    The owner is not exactly a member of the Saudi family. He is called Sheikh Waleed Al-Ibrahim, he is King Fahad's father-in-law or brother-in-law I'm not exactly sure. But yeah, he is a billionaire :)

  3. there's a lot of ads specially in mbc4

  4. yeah - MBC 4 has ads..... advertising their own programs - ie internal advertising - but no actual products seem to get advertised on the channel.

  5. but if am not mistaken also on mbc2 they advertise mainly Gulf products
    If you take in consideration that all these channels [like Fox] in the end broadcast old movies and series or movies that have been produced by independent distributors, I think it's a good business because the costs are low
    Personally I quit showtime after mbc max and fox channels came in, cause they're enough for me and I think many did the same
    I also buy Americana products so I am part of the game :P

  6. Record them and play them backwards.....subliminal this, buy

  7. Channel only operates 12hrs of programmes and over the next 12 hrs they replay the shows (to suit arab viewers since all their shows are on uk timing!

    MBC 4 has ads, and you are right they advertise their own shows. But look at those ads, Twix movie night, Nivea, Dominos. they found a way to incorporate sponsorship and products! thats how they make money!..Plus same group owns Al Arabiya news channel


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