Samar Akrouk to Replace Christina Wayne as Managing Director of Saudi-Owned MBC Studios

Samar Akrouk has been appointed managing director of Saudi production powerhouse MBC Studios, replacing U.S. producer Christina Wayne, who recently quietly exited the top post at the production arm of top Middle East broadcaster MBC Group.

Akrouk, who has been with MBC for almost 30 years, is currently the group’s director of production. She will retain that role while expanding her purview from mainly non-scripted productions for the MBC TV channels and its Shahid streamer to also comprise oversight of MBC’s high-end drama and film productions in Saudi Arabia, which are part of an ongoing effort to help kickstart the kingdom’s nascent industry.

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“She will be managing the entity’s mission to leverage the ongoing trend for non-English-language television content to reach more global markets,” a statement from MBC reads.

High-end Saudi productions in various stages bankrolled by MBC include Hollywood-style tentpole “Desert Warrior” — featuring an all-star international cast led by “Captain America” star Anthony Mackie and directed by Rupert Wyatt (“Planet of the Apes”) — and fantasy-adventure “Rise of the Witches,” the biggest TV series ever produced with a homegrown Saudi cast. Both were filmed in Neom, a sprawling area along the kingdom’s Red Sea coast.

Wayne, who early in her career served as senior VP of scripted programming at AMC where she helped develop “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” joined MBC Studios as chief in February 2023. No reason was provided by MBC for her departure, which took place last month.

“Our forthcoming endeavors in drama and film production arrive at an opportune moment,” Akrouk said in a statement. “There’s no doubt that our region, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is in the spotlight, drawing considerable interest from leading international production studios focused on creating world-class content.”

She continued, “I cannot wait to delve deeper, roll up my sleeves and further contribute to this incredible organization that I have called home for the past 27 years.”

Born in Amman and raised in New York, Akrouk holds a degree in international affairs and law from Georgetown University. She joined MBC in 1995, starting her career with ARA Group International, MBC’s holding company, in its Washington D.C. office. In 2001, Akrouk relocated to Beirut, where she opened MBC’s first main office in the Middle East prior to the group’s relocation from London to Dubai. She is credited with playing a major role in building MBC’s in-house production capacity comprising local adaptations of international franchises such as “Arab Idol,” “Arab’s Got Talent,” “Project Runway,” “Top Chef,” “The Voice: Arabia” and “X Factor Arabia.” Amid MBC’s transition from a linear broadcaster to a multi-platform player with a strong streaming component, Akrouk also recently headed the production team of the groundbreaking Arabic musical film “Sukkar,” which has been a hit at the Arab box office.

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