Rapid digital TV conversion in Middle East and Africa
June 1st, 2011 - 15:39 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

Despite the recent social and political turmoil, rapid conversion to digital TV continues in the Middle East and Africa, according to a new report covering 18 countries from Digital TV Research Ltd. Report author Simon Murray said: “We forecast that digital penetration will reach 81% of TV households by 2016. Eight countries will achieve 100% penetration (and Israel will be the first to reach it – this year). Another bonus for the region’s TV industry is the high birth rate, with nearly 20 million TV households to be added between 2006 and 2016.”

More than 40% of TV households watch free-to-air DTH signals. There are 500 free-to-air (FTA) channels serving the Arab world, many of which do not operate in a true commercial environment as they are funded by their local government or by a wealthy patron. Many FTA DTH homes receive illegal transmissions of legitimate pay TV services. FTA DTH penetration varies will be highest in Jordan (86%), Algeria (85%) and Morocco (82%) by 2016.

Mr Murray added: “Only 15% of TV households (analogue and digital combined) are actually paying for legitimate TV signals. This proportion will climb only gradually to 22% by 2016. Even so, the number of pay TV homes will nearly double between 2010 and 2016 to 21.2 million, due partly to the boom in TV households.”

Cable TV is not a big business in the region. Penetration is less than 3% of TV households and this proportion will fall over the next five years as competition increases. This competition will lead cable TV revenues to fall over the next five years, especially in Israel where the government is pushing DTT to force down pay TV subscription rates.