The growing importance of social media was one of the hot topics today at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit.

“The greatest power shift in media and entertainment is to the consumer who controls access and choice,” said Jim Gianopulos [pictured], Chairman & CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment. “Our job is to make the best content available in as many places as possible and to get paid for it. Competing with free or stolen content is a very difficult business model. A lot of what we do is provide consumers legitimate choices of content.”

US lawyer Skip Brittenham noted the impact of social media on studio slates: “Social media is driving the way consumers buy movies and go to movies and it’s having a big impact on studios. They are nervous as everything is now a meritocracy, so studios are defaulting to what’s a known property – that’s why over one fifth of the movies being released this year – 27 movies – are sequels – the studios are going where they feel safe.”

Speakers also discussed the growing role of China, India and Middle East in terms of cinema going and media consumption.

“The growth patterns on this side of the world are massive in terms of growth of box office and admissions,” Mohammed said, noting a recent report that the average family in Abu Dhabi goes to the cinema an enviable three times per week.

Discussing phenomenal growth in China and India, Brittenham added: “We have to understand their culture better and put movies in there that audiences will want to see and deliver the right content. We also need to encourage them to protect the aftermarket in China and India. In India there is an aftermarket in Blu Ray but in China there is no aftermarket due to piracy. As these markets get more developed and create more demand, they need to protect us, the content creators so we can sell to them.”

Ari Emanuel, Co-CEO of WME Entertainment, pointed out that piracy was the biggest issue combating the entertainment business. “A bunch of us are on this issue,” he said. “In France they have come up with the three strike rule and the UK is in the middle of political winds on this. Hopefully in New York we can get implementation for putting some kind of three strike rule in place. The White House is looking to that in some capacity. The major issue from our perspective as content creators is that the ISPs could control this and from our standpoint they are electing not to do it.”

Mohammed Al Mubarak, Chairman of Imagenation Abu Dhabi, noted: “In the Middle East we’ve tried to limit access to illegal downloading sites and access to pirated DVDs to combat piracy.”

The Summit was opened by talks from James Murdoch and James Cameron.