Middle East TV: a financial catastrophe

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Arab world’s 500 or so TV stations cost their owners a massive $6bn annually to run. But they earn a lowly $700m in actual ad-revenues, says a study from the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).

The ECSSR reports that many of the channels are not actually interested in making profits and exist purely to push a specific theological agenda. ECSSR states that the top 10% of channels win 95% of the ad-support. The study repeats an analysis carried out earlier by Arab Advisors Group, which said the number of channels “exploded” 270% between 2004 and 2007.

“That clearly means there are a number of satellite channels that are able to continue broadcasting despite their losses for more than 18 years,” said Ali Jaber, the dean of the Mohammed Bin Rashid School For Communication in Dubai, and an ex-GM at a couple of the TV channels. “It also means that those who fund those channels despite their losses are governments and businessmen who have political pursuits.”

But the goal of many satellite channels is not to earn revenue, but to attract viewers to serve political agendas, Jaber added, in a conversation with Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper. “The advertising cake is known and its value is, at most, US$700 million annually, which is shared among the main networks, with small amounts left for small channels that revolve around the main ones,” he said.