MENA pioneers leave the stage
Nilesat lost its much-admired CTO and chief engineer , Salah Hamza , in October 2020 . Arguably , Hamza did as much to promote satellite TV as any individual . He had retired from Nilesat in 2014 . Hamza also had to be something of a diplomat , having to cope on an almost daily basis with satellite jamming of broadcast signals , and at one time was attempting work-arounds from signal jamming by a dozen local governments and even break-away organisations who were objecting to some aspect of their local government administrations .
Hamza supervised expansion of Nilesat ’ s major international teleport and play-out centre at Nilesat ’ s HQ at 6th October City , near the famous Giza Pyramids in Cairo . Hamza was also responsible for specifying and then liaising with the construction of Nilesat 101 and its follow-on satellites .
May 2020 saw the death announced of Sheikh Salah Kamel ( below ). Sheikh Salah was usually described as a “ prominent Saudi businessman ”, which was true , but as founder of the Arab Radio & Television ( ART ) Network ( and also a co-founder of MBC ) it was in broadcasting that he was at his most enthusiastic .
The MIPTV and MIPCOM markets in Cannes would see him sat on the forecourt of the Carlton Hotel , surrounded by buyers and sellers of his programming assets .
Kamel built the beautiful , and very much state-of-theart , broadcasting studios at Avezzano , Italy in addition to his studios in Cairo . His aim was to see the number of TV channels available over the MENA region increased . There were 18 TV channels in 1993 , most of which were state-owned and operated . The first wave of expansion in that decade that took advantage of technological development was mostly targeted at the richest audiences using pay-TV . By 2005 , the number had increased to 150 , and by 2010 the numbers of channels were estimated at 450 .
Saleh Kamel and Sheikh Walid al-Ibrahim , funded the creation of MBC and worked together until 1993 when Sheikh Walid took control , leaving Salah Kamel to develop ART . It was a labour of love because profits were extremely elusive . In 2002 Kamal relocated his broadcast operation from Italy to Jordan Media City . Sheikh Salah sold his Sports channels to Aljazeera in 2009 and the rest to pay-TV operator Orbit . The music channels had already gone to Beirut ’ s Rotana .
ART ( and MBC ) had to contend with a challenging ‘ dish ban ’ in Saudi Arabia which saw dishes and receivers smuggled into the Kingdom , until the ban was relaxed .
Sadly , Sheikh Salah was one of the VIPs and members of the Saudi royal family arrested in the purge of November 2017 . His family still have extensive links with the Arab entertainment industry .
to local , regional and international viewers . IMPACT . Hamad Al Mannai , VP / commercial at Es ’ hailSat , admits that Covid pandemic has impacted the whole entertainment and media industry . “ PwC ’ s report , Perspectives from the Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020 – 2024 , projected a contraction of 5.6 per cent in 2020 across the industry . However , it is believed that the industry will bounce-back once the situation normalises later in 2021 and 2022 and will continue show a growth trend beyond that .”
Es ’ hailSat , in effect , shares an orbital slot with Arabsat at 25.5 / 26 degrees East similar to that of Nilesat and Eutelsat . Es ’ hailSat 1 is at 25.5 degrees East while Es ’ hailSat 2 is at 26 degrees East , which is where
“ Satellite broadcasting remains the pillar in delivering video to millions across a vast region .”
Arabsat ’ s Badr fleet orbits .
“ Satellite broadcasting remains one of the important pillars in delivering high quality video to millions of homes across a vast region , especially one that is spread out in sparsely populated pockets . Strategically positioned , Es ’ hailSat ’ s 25.5E / 26E hotspot serves millions of households across the MENA region . Despite the emergence of alternative viewing methods such as over-the-top ( OTT ) and digital terrestrial television ( DTT ), it is forecast that satellite broadcasting will add more than 1 per cent CAGR across five years ( 2020- 2025 ) in TV households across the globe . In addition , data consolidated by Es ’ hailSat in collaboration with [ research company ] Northern Sky Research , shows that Television is the most popular viewing device for watching video and will remain that way for the next five years at least . This includes viewing of satellite and OTT content . Considering potential bottlenecks in existing terrestrial infrastructures , it is likely that future viewing will be a hybrid model with a combination of multiple sources and devices i . e ., satellite TV and IPdelivered content ,” says Al Mannai . DOMINANT . He adds that Standard Definition is still the dominant format across the industry but with constant growth towards high definition ( HD ). Al Mannai remains optimistic that Ultra-HD will make an impact . “ The introduction of ultra-high definition ( UHD ) in the past few years was important in allowing better viewing experience and improved customer retention . However , the adoption of UHD remains slow due to high data rates requirement and the associated high investment needed across the production and transmission value chain . This might change with the introduction of newer compression formats such as H . 266 compression codec ( VVC ) which will lower the data rate requirement . However , we believe this will take time before the codec is widely adopted in consumer devices and receivers .”
He confirms that Covid has been a tough problem . “ Coming out of a difficult year for the industry in 2020 , where we have been consolidating our business and putting in place longer term plans , over the next few years we see these plans coming to fruition . We aim to roll out new products and services over the next year to enhance our offerings to our customers within the eco-system for broadcast and telecommunications sectors .”
But Al Mannai also looks forward , not just to UHD but new functionality for customers . “ Longer term we will continue to work with our customers to meet their connectivity requirements with services such as IOT and M2M , which will require large amounts of satellite capacity . We also see much potential in the mobility area , in land , maritime and aviation sectors , where satellites remain the primary solution for connectivity . From a strategic corporate perspective , we are engaging with partners in the industry for new satellite programmes to expand our reach beyond the MENA region . We plan to build scale through partnerships with leading international satellite operators , with newer state-of-the-art satellites in other prime orbital locations around the globe , offering customers flexible and reliable services .” FORWARD . The MENA broadcasting industry is also looking forward . Pay- TV operator OSN suffered another set-back and lost another CEO . Patrick Tillieux departed for “ personal reasons ”, and a new interim CEO