The number of free-to-air (FTA) satellite TV channels in the Arab world increased by 19.3%, reaching 642 channels by the end of the first quarter of 2012, compared with 538 channels in the same period last year, according to a report released by Arab Advisers Group's Media Strategic Research Service.

The report, entitled "Satellite TV in the Arab World 2012", said the number of fully launched and operational channels reached 565 by the end of last March, up from 501 in March 2011, the majority being privately owned.

The FTA satellite TV channels, targeting Arab countries, continued to grow as they increased by 542% between January 2004 and March 2012, the report said.

Privately owned channels stood at 75% of total operating channels due to the liberalisation of the audio-visual sectors in the region.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates host the highest number of TV channels in the Arab world. Egypt hosts 21.6% of the total FTA satellite TV channels, while Saudi Arabia hosts 14%.

Meanwhile, new research from the Arab Advisers Group said that advertising rates for a 30-second commercial spot had reached $3,299 by the end of this year's first quarter, an increase of 5.6% over last year's $3,125, reports MENAFN.

According to the report, the average peak ad rates of 38 FTA satellite TV channels were highest during the hours of 9pm and 10pm.

News and current affairs channels have the highest average ad rates among FTA satellite TV channels in the Arab world. The peak average ad rates of these channels reached $5,460 between 9pm and 10pm, according to the report