MBC Studios Boss Peter Smith Exiting Saudi-Owned Media Group

EXCLUSIVE: Peter Smith is leaving MBC Studios after four years as Managing Director.

We’ve learned the international industry veteran is stepping down from the premium production arm of Middle Eastern and North African network MBC, though he’ll continue to advise on production and distribution.

In a statement to Deadline, MBC CEO Sam Barnett confirmed the exit and said a successor would be named “in due course, in coming days.”

Smith is a former NBCUniversal International President and was CEO of Cineflix Studios and Greece-based broadcaster Antenna Group.

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He joined MBC Studios in 2018 as it launched as the production arm of free-to-air network MBC, which is the largest media company in the MENA region. He was tasked with increasing MBC’s original film and TV output and and he has gone on to overseen the launch of shows such as RashashRise of the Witches and The Devil’s Promise.

“Peter Smith is stepping aside as Managing Director of MBC Studios,” said Barnett. “However, he will continue to act as advisor to the group, particularly on the production of Desert Warrior and the distribution of premium content. 

“Pete has made invaluable contributions to the growth of MBC Studios during his four-year tenure, leading the production of numerous flagships, including RashashRise of the WitchesThe Devil’s PromiseSlave Market and the launch of MBC’s slate of long running dramas including Al Mirath and West Al Balad.

“On behalf of the group, I would like to express my gratitude to Pete for his hard work and dedication during his tenure.”

The launch of MBC Studios was part of a five-year plan put in place by MBC founder Waleed Al-Ibrahim of Saudi Arabia. Its launch also coincided with the start of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion-dollar investment into local media and entertainment, which continues to this day through initiatives such as the Red Sea International Film Festival.

MBC moved its headquarters from Dubai to Riyadh last year. The Saudi-owned company launched in the UK back in 1991 and had been based in the UAE since 2002 before the move, which came as Saudi authorities called for multinational groups with Middle Eastern interests to move their bases to Riyadh.

For MBC, the news comes a day after it struck a wide-ranging content partnership with Vice Media Group.

Vice, which has offices in the Middle East, will make Arabic-language content for MBC in genres such as food, music, fashion, visual arts and video games. The partnership will be run from Vice’s offices in Riyadh, and also include mentorship and training opportunities for creators in the region.

Barnett said: “Given Vice’s reputation for content and storytelling, we couldn’t ask for a better partnership with which to kick off 2023. We have no doubt that Vice will help deliver diverse content that will complement our current offerings on MBC.”

“MBC Group is the leading media platform in the Region, and we are happy to help extend its reach while highlighting the vibrant, emerging youth culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – where more than half the population is under the age of 35 – and across the Arabic-speaking world,” added Vice CEO Nancy Dubuc.

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