Middle East & Africa TV storms past the ten 10 million pay-TV subscriber mark

Editor | 11-12-2012

Despite a number of serious business obstacles to overcome, the pay-TV sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is enjoying a period of robust growth, according to new research from Informa Telecoms & Media.
Even though in general it believes the MENA region offers a wide range of opportunities, some aspects of the TV business, legislative and regulatory issues continue to pose some difficulties. These issues notwithstanding, the analyst calculates that in the MENA region, pay-TV subs passed the key ten million mark way back in the first quarter of 2012, and projects that the total will grow to 15.8 million by 2017.
This is respectful growth for a pay-TV market based on a total TV household universe of 92.1 million at the end of 2011 and which Informa expects to rise to 94.5 million by end-2012. Sub-Saharan Africa had another 3.18 million TV households at end-2011 and is expected to end 2012 with 39.4 million.
Assessing drivers for the growth across the region, Informa says that the introduction of advanced peoplemeters in the UAE and Saudi Arabia point the way to an increasingly transparent and open market, and that the establishment of several 'media hubs' over the last decade offers non-domestic businesses "an obvious" location from which to gain a foothold in the region. Moreover, it suggests that an advanced modern infrastructure in some areas of the Middle East, coupled with a 'tech savvy' youthful demographic, is allowing for pockets of prosperous growth in the IPTV and over-the-top (OTT) sectors.
Talking of platforms, Informa calculates that satellite TV is the primary TV service in two-thirds (67%) of MENA TV households, with some homes, particularly in Gulf States, either having two dishes or a dual LNB (amplifier) to take signals from two satellites. Around 94% of homes take DTH signals as primary or secondary service, although only 43% of homes take pay DTH signals.
Even though satellite is dominant, the survey shows that IPTV is growing fairly quickly from a very low base but that its long-term prospects will be hampered by a general lack of broadband penetration and also by the fact that where broadband is in place it is not always suitably robust to support the demands of IPTV services.