Euromedia February March - Page 16

Cover Story

Cover Story

MENA : The shape of broadcasting in


By any measure , there is no one description – or forecast – that applies to the whole MENA area . What is happening in go-getting Dubai or Abu Dhabi and Kuwait will certainly not apply to Afghanistan , or even Egypt . Chris Forrester takes a close look at current – and future – prospects for the region .

The MENA region ’ s broadcasting picture can seem healthier than ever . But just below the surface there are much the same anxieties in place as 10 , or even , 20 years ago . For example : In that 20-year period , the region has created three world-class airlines in Emirates , Etihad and Qatar . It is also fair to say that in broadcasting , the region has created impressive portfolios of channels from MBC , and from the news operation of Al Jazeera and its stablemate in sports at beIN . But little else . In terms of advertising support , the region remains in the televisual stone age , with minuscule ad revenues .

And while pay-TV , since the combination of Showtime and Orbit has – at very long last – proven that profits can be generated , the pay-TV sector still struggles . Moreover , pay- TV ( other than with sport ) is yet to capitalise on local enthusiasm for home-grown entertainment programming . There ’ s a strong willingness to embrace new concepts and formats , but frequently limited in scope by the domination of ‘ bought in ’ formats from ‘ Western ’ producers .
Indeed , a recent study ( from Digital TV Research ) on the Middle East and North Africa ’ s pay-TV prospects wiped out a staggering $ 1 billion in anticipated revenues from their previous study which talked about $ 5 billion a year being generated in 2021 . That ’ s now down to a disappointing $ 4 billion . Simon Murray , principal analyst at Digital TV Research , explained : “ Along with long-running
“ The major broadcasters are migrating to HD and we are carrying 25 channels .” - Sami Boustany , YahLive conflicts and slower economic growth , several countries ( notably Turkey and Egypt ) have suffered substantial currency devaluation . OTT is creating competition to traditional pay-TV operators . It ’ s not all bad news , with Kazakhstan , Kuwait , Qatar and the UAE enjoying good growth .” TARGET . It is fair to say that countries such as Kazakhstan are not high on Hollywood ’ s target list for growth ! Murray adds that legitimate pay-TV revenues will reach $ 4.12 billion by 2022 , up by 17 % from $ 3.52 billion in 2016 . Five countries will contribute more than three-quarters of the region ’ s pay-TV revenues in 2022 . The number of pay-TV homes will increase by nearly 5m between 2015 and 2022 to 19.52m . About 18.7 % of TV households paid for TV signals by end-2016 , which will climb to 22.2 % by 2022 .
Turkey ’ s Digiturk will remain the region ’ s pay-TV operator leader in subscriber terms - by some distance . Second-placed beIN formally acquired Digiturk in September 2016 . beIN itself is forecast to have 1.67m satellite TV subscribers by 2022 – ahead of OSN ’ s 1.5m [ so excluding subscribers to their channels on other platforms such as IPTV and cable ]. beIN will overtake OSN in 2019 . However , OSN is the largest pay -TV operator when measured in revenue terms . OSN ’ s packages are expensive even compared with the most developed countries . PIRACY . Of course , Murray ’ s data doesn ’ t include the illegal revenues being gathered
from piracy in its many forms in the region . Piracy , frequently quite blatant in the form of transmission signal theft , remains unregulated and near-ungovernable . Much the same applies to satellite signal jamming and interference , again almost free from sanctions .
The problem of so-called channels which blatantly steal copyright material has improved over the past year or so thanks to strong actions by the Mena Anti-Piracy Coalition ( MENAAPC ). The likes of MBC , OSN , Rotana , ART and others keep a close watch on how their material is stolen , and channels are taken down . MENAAPC says that it will pursue channels which steal and infringe copyrights , and reminds those transgressing that these actions are “ punishable by imprisonment and fines in most of the Arab countries copyright laws ”.
Khalid Balkheyour , CEO at Arabsat , condemns the pirates . “ Piracy will never disappear . There will always be pirates and thieves . We are extremely active with the MENA Anti-Piracy Coalition and have switched off many channels that were stealing content . We are trying to keep this under control , and the number of pirated channels is well down on a year or two ago . As far as signal jamming is concerned , we are making good progress , helped by our contacts at the ITU , ASBU and EBU , and carrier identification is