Fayez Al Sabbagh
Fayez Al Sabbagh, the President of Spacetoon Group is no stranger at the Digital Studio Awards – having collected several honours on behalf of the company’s various productions. Last year Zafari was recognised for its high production creativity and championing UAE’s tolerance theme enroute winning “Best Special Effects/CGI” at the Digital Studio ME Awards 2019.
Sabbagh founded Spacetoons in 1997 and is regarded as the ‘godfather of children’s entertainment’. After all having the advantage of being an early mover, Sabbagh was the first businessman to discover the untapped market of children edutainment in the MENA region.
His took his first steps in the entertainment sub-sector in 1979, by founding ALC, the first company to introduce licensing to the Arab world that went on to represent (Universal Studios, Marvel, Turner Entertainment, King Features and many other global companies). His success eventually spawned the first Kids channel Spacetoon TV, which paved the way for many other children channels to follow thereafter.
Maaz Sheikh, co-founder and CEO, StarzPlay has scaled new heights of success for the Dubai-founded OTT service. Founded in 2014, Sheikh has successfully steered the company to the point where it is now on the brink of reaching profitability – a remarkable feat for the industry where up-front costs can be heavy due to the required investment in content and the technology platform itself, not to mention day to day operating costs from people to premises.
Today, StarzPlay employs 130 people and has three office locations (Dubai, Madrid and Lahore) where its various sales, marketing and technical teams sit to ensure continued growth in its core markets. Another feather in the cap for Sheikh and his team came last year when IHS Markit reported StarzPlay as the region’s leading SVOD platform in terms of subscription numbers, ahead of global giant Netflix.
Armed a calming personality and always wearing a wide smile, Sheikh has combined his astute business acumen with his proactive nature to lead StarzPlay in the midst of strong competition from regional and global players.
Patrick Tillieux, CEO, OSN - joined the company in August 2016 as a board member and was appointed to CEO in December 2018. Tillieux has enjoyed a long and successful career spanning more than 25 years, during which he has built and reshaped major TV operations and has held key positions across leading media companies in Europe.
He was CEO of SBS Broadcasting Europe (2001-09), COO of ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG (2007-09), CEO of CANAL+ Holland and CANAL+ Flandres (1999-2001), MD and CFO of RTL Netherlands (1995-98) and held various Director level positions within TF1 (1988-1994), where he started up operations of Eurosport.
Faced with rapidly changing media consumption habits, Tillieux’s approach since his appointment to OSN has been one of transformation and innovation. The company has been through a difficult year of rebasing its business. Massive cost and headcount reductions have put OSN back on track. Building further on OSN’s heritage Tillieux’s key area of focus is making OSN great not only in linear television but also in on-demand video consumption through streaming. Under Tillieux’s direction, localisation and Arabisation have become key conditions. Original productions and locally produced entertainment are currently in the pipeline.