MENA region to have 50mn multichannel TV homes by end-2014

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will have 50mn multichannel TV homes by the end of 2014, meaning that over 70% of households in the region will have cable, satellite or IPTV services, according to a new report from Informa Telecoms & Media.

The new report, entitled 'Middle East & Africa TV (6th edition)', estimates that there were 76mn TV households in the MENA region by the end of 2008, with satellite dominating with a 59% share of this market. Sub-Sahara Africa is estimated to have a further 33.4mn TV households.

Cable and IPTV are described as "minor" platforms in the MENA region, although IPTV in particular is believed to be "growing quickly", albeit from a very low base. Despite some signs of progress, broadband penetration in the region remains low, according to the report, and IPTV is therefore restricted from even greater progress both by this lack of broadband penetration and also by the fact that where broadband is in place, it is "not always suitably robust to facilitate IPTV provision".

Two of the major issues facing this region's multichannel TV market are named as regulation and legislation, with the close relationship between the state and many broadcasters being described as having an inhibiting effect. Some media legislation is perceived as being out-of-date and "often unable to deal with recent developments such as digital TV, the Internet, mobile TV and IPTV". However, a youthful demographic skew in many countries in the region minimises barriers to these new technologies being accepted, according to the report, with this mindset helping to promote demand for concepts such as convergence and technological upgrading.

Furthermore, the rise of devoted media zones, such as the Dubai Media City and others in Jordan, Syria and Egypt, are improving content production values in the region, which will also improve the future prospects for the sector, as better quality TV, both in terms of technology and content, can "only have a positive impact".

Pay-TV growth does however continue to be restricted by the ongoing popularity of free-to-air (FTA) satellite channels, with the vast number of FTA channels making it difficult for legitimate pay-TV platforms to establish themselves, according to Informa Telecoms & Media. The rise of FTA channels is believed to have also promoted a cultural mindset that "expects to receive a wide range of TV services without payment". Furthermore, signal theft is described as being a major problem in several countries in the region, including issues such as illegal redistribution, decoder piracy, smart card piracy and the grey market.