Media hub at NEOM aims to lead global media industry in sustainable production - Wayne Borg

November 02, 2021

By Anas Alyusuf

The world’s first integrated creative media industries hub, which is being established at NEOM, can contribute significantly to NEOM’s GDP with generating exciting career prospects for young Saudis, according to Wayne Borg, managing director of Media, Entertainment and Culture at NEOM.

Located in northwest Saudi Arabia, NEOM will include cities, ports, enterprise zones, research centers, sports, entertainment venues and tourism destinations, eventually becoming a home and workplace for more than a million people.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, he said that NEOM is embracing sustainability as a lifestyle where the media hub aims to lead the global media industry in sustainable production while its entertainment sector will emerge as a global leader for the next generation of entertainment.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to create the world’s first physically and technologically integrated creative media industries hub at NEOM and by doing so contribute significantly to NEOM’s GDP while generating exciting career prospects for young Saudis,” he said while referring to the added value that he brought into NEOM in his capacity as a towering international media figure with experience spanning over two decades.

“While I have spent my career working for iconic international media businesses in mature and emerging markets across Australia, Europe, Asia and the US, the added value I bring to NEOM is my intimate knowledge of the region, having previously helped establish twofour54, the Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority, where I served as Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer.

“This blend of regional and international experience means I understand the strategic and commercial imperatives of the global media industry and have shaped our value proposition to meet these needs,” he said.

“As we are designing and building from the ground up within a cognitive city powered by world-class technology, we can create an ecosystem with industry-focused applied learning, innovation and incubation, investment and cutting-edge production infrastructure on one co-located, creative campus at a scale that has not been achieved before,” he said.

Borg emphasized that NEOM is committed to reinventing the relationship between man and nature. Hence, the media industry at NEOM will adapt to nature by aligning to the core values of sustainability and empowering humanity to create a brighter future.

Highlighting the redesigned role of media industry at NEOM, while comparing to the current media scenario, he said, “The media industry is well known for its negative impact on the environment.

For example, a blockbuster film with a budget of $70 million produces an average of 2,840 tons of CO2 emissions per production — 51 percent of which is related to transportation costs, with the remaining 49 percent taken up by energy consumption. To put this in perspective, it takes 3,700 acres of forest to absorb those emissions over an entire year.”

Reaffirming the commitment of NEOM to reinvent the relationship between man and nature, he said, “We will be 100 percent powered by renewable energy, and we will be a caring society. That alone means large reductions on the industry’s impact on the climate but our commitment to sustainability extends beyond reductions in transport and energy emissions.”

“Being built from the ground up means our entire ecosystem, and especially our TV and film studios, will be amongst the world’s most sustainable. Our use of the latest production technologies will allow us to build virtual sets with augmented reality to avoid building physical sets — another big drain on the environment because big movies can generate nearly 50 tons of construction and set debris, and use of water and waste management are other key focus areas for us.”

He reaffirmed that NEOM is reshaping the way the world engages with sustainability, embracing it as a lifestyle and not a superficial afterthought. “We are reimagining transportation, water resource management and media production, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions and harnessing clean energy. We aim to lead the global media industry in sustainable production.”

Borg, who is also in charge of the NEOM Fashion, said NEOM aims to lead the global agenda on sustainability and innovation in future fashion with plans to become the global hub for sustainable fashion research and applied innovation at scale.

“The fashion industry is another powerful but harmful and polluting industry with a tremendous impact on the environment. It is responsible for 20 percent of global wastewater, 10 percent of global emissions and nearly 5 percent of the total global waste, and it is in dire need of change but there is currently no coordinated industry effort to address the issues facing the industry,” he said.

He elaborated that NEOM aims to lead the global agenda on sustainability and innovation in future fashion with incisive plans.

To achieve the goal to become the global hub for sustainable fashion research and applied innovation, the focus will be on becoming home to the world’s leading research and development facilities; advanced materials and processing innovation such as sustainable farming practices, lab-grown and alternative fibers; tech-enabled supply chain such as automated fabrication, and 3D printing; and circularity solutions like eco-design, fabrics to yarn, and raw materials tech.

There should also be a focus to make industry learning and talent development at the core, underpinning all of these areas to prepare talent with the skills and knowledge to operate in these fields, he said and emphasized, “We will be able to provide the blueprint for these transformative techniques and facilitate growth, which will eventually have global ripple effects in the way fashion is sustainably designed, distributed and disposed of to create a better future for everyone.”

Responding to the media sector’s largest contribution to NEOM, which is one of the main giga projects of Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Borg said the media industries are recognized globally as a growth driver and powerful force for economies and progressive societies around the world given their contribution to GDP, the role they play in driving the knowledge economy through innovation and creativity, creating new and future-proof jobs, and establishing platforms to tell stories that help shape identity.

On the concepts of NEOM Entertainment and Culture, he elucidated, “For entertainment, it’s about how we contribute to the livability of NEOM and the attraction of visitors. We want to be seen as a global leader for the next generation of entertainment, delivering shareable experiences that are unique, immersive and enriching and unlike anything you will experience anywhere else.”

“Culturally, NEOM will be a creative region with world-class cultural districts and home to the creative community, featuring museums, theater, fashion, visual arts, music and performing arts that are both authentic and inspiring to residents and visitors. We aim to create an ecosystem at NEOM where creators can develop, pilot and debut world-first, immersive entertainment and cultural experiences and attractions that will then be exported and showcased around the world.”

He also emphasized the core ideas of the sectors he is heading. He said, “We want to harness our three biggest assets in what we create in entertainment and culture, namely our natural, awe-inspiring environment; our unique, groundbreaking urban design in THE LINE; and the power of the imagination of our people to shape the future of entertainment and cultural offerings.”

As Managing Director of Media Industries, Entertainment, Culture and Fashion at NEOM, Borg is tasked with developing the key industry sectors of media, entertainment, culture and fashion as part of the wider ambitions for NEOM.

He is an accomplished international executive with an unparalleled 20-plus years of experience in leadership roles in the media and creative industries. Having lived and worked in Australia, North America, Asia and the Middle East, he has developed strong cultural experience and expertise across many mature and emerging markets.

Borg has led key divisions within several iconic, international media businesses and driven strategic and policy initiatives for government in the media, cultural and creative industries.

His experience includes the development of industry and sector clusters, the establishment of special economic zones (media, digital, gaming and entertainment) and investment and delivery of media and cultural infrastructure.

He has also served as a non–executive board director of media start-ups; production, gaming, digital, publishing, media education/training and entertainment companies.

Earlier, Borg held leadership roles with leading international brands including Warner Bros/Time Warner, The Walt Disney Co. and PepsiCo. Prior to joining NEOM, Borg was president and general manager of Fox Studios, based in Los Angeles, having previously overseen Fox Studios group operations in Australia as CEO and managing director.

His previous roles include Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer at twofour54 (Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority) and executive vice president at Universal Pictures International based in London.

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