Professionals in the broadcast industry often say that the changes currently taking place in the sector, led by disruptive trends and technologies such as OTT streaming and smartphones, are unlike anything they have seen before. And as with disruption in any industry, these changes give rise to a certain amount of angst about how to best navigate these turbulent times.
But for Hassan Ghoul, the IABM’s recently appointed director for MENA, these concerns and worries about the direction of the industry are nothing new. With a career stretching back some 30 years, Ghoul has seen his share of change. “People were saying similar things when I joined the industry. 30 years ago people were warning of changes in the industry,” he says. “It was the start of going from composite recording to component recording, which was a big development. Electronic news gathering was new and it was seen as revolutionary.”
However, Ghoul’s time and experience in the broadcast industry, working for technology giants including Sony, Grass Valley and 3M, has taught him that change and transformation is an inherent part of the broadcast sector, and should be embraced rather than shied away from.
This is certainly something that the IABM plans to achieve in the MENA region. The international non-profit trade organisation, which represents broadcast manufacturers and solution providers around the world, hired Ghoul as director of MENA at the start of 2016. Until then, the region had been administered by the IABM as part of the EMEA region, but the organisation is now dedicating more attention and resources to MENA, a reflection of the importance its members place in the region.
“The [IABM] management realised that the MENA is an important region where there are still large broadcast projects being undertaken and it is a region where a large number of our members have decided to set up operations and to develop their activities,” Ghoul says. “The IABM decided that it was time to dedicate some efforts to MENA and therefore I came on board.”
The IABM has more than 400 members, who collectively represent about 80% of broadcast manufacturing revenues. While these numbers are impressive enough, Ghoul explains that the membership has also evolved. “Over time and the change in the technology and the way the supply side of the industry works, our membership has grown to include more than just manufacturers. It includes system integrators and resellers. Any company or entity that does business with the broadcast market, broadcasters, end users or content providers is able to join the IABM.”
Many of the IABM’s members have a presence in the MENA region, either directly with their own office, or indirectly through partners, and will benefit from the trade organisation’s closer focus on the region. So, how will the IABM help its members on the ground in MENA? For Ghoul, the IABM’s approach is three-pronged, consisting of providing members with market intelligence and reports, a broad range of training programmes, and events such as networking meetings, forums and summits. Members in the MENA region will benefit in each of these areas. Indeed, in terms of research and intelligence, members in the region will now be able to benefit from reports more closely tailored to the region.
Ghoul explains that the IABM produces numerous reports about the broadcast industry and the market. One of the main reports is the Global Market Valuation Report, which is produced in conjunction with Devoncroft in the US and covers everything to do with the broadcast market. The IABM also produces quarterly and monthly reports such as the Industry Index, which tracks business being done by large and small companies within the industry. “These are provided free for the member companies. They can look at them on our website and download them.”
Despite the challenge presented by some budget cuts and postponements, Ghoul says that the MENA region remains attractive for the broadcast industry. Compared to more developed markets such as Europe and the US, the MENA region’s broadcast industry is growing from a lower base, which means there remains huge potential for growth.
“This region is still very dynamic, it still has – unlike a lot of other regions, US or Asia – some potential to grow more. This is definitely a clear sign and a clear indication of the type of economies that we have in the region,” Ghoul says.
He adds that during events such as CABSAT and NAB, he spoke to many companies that said they were interested in entering the region or were planning to set up a presence here.
“During CABSAT and after I have seen a large number of companies who are currently not operating in this region trying to invest to come in and start some sort of operation. So again this indicates the fact that the region is dynamic and still holds a lot of potential for growth,” he says.
In line with the IABM’s greater focus on the MENA region, the organisation is also treating the region as a distinct geographic region for research and market intelligence reports, which are created by internal IABM analysts and external analysts. “The reports that were produced by the IABM originally covered the global market and the major regions: The Americas, EMEA, and APAC, but now MENA is a separate region and we are beginning to see some specific reports and specific information about the MENA region which we are sure will be very helpful for our members,” Ghoul says.
In terms of training courses, Ghoul sees plenty of opportunities to help IABM members in the region. “We have a large portfolio of training courses and those training courses are targeted towards the broadcast industry but they cover a wide variety of subjects. They cover a lot of technological subjects including workflow, broadcast for non-broadcast engineers, IT courses for broadcast engineers, and sales and strategy courses. So there is a large portfolio of courses and it is growing all the time,” he says.
Courses and training modules are modified on an ongoing basis, taking into account views and feedback from the members. Examples of popular training sessions include Network Essentials for Engineers – which is especially relevant given the changes taking place in IP technology, Understanding File Formats, and Video Systems and Applications.
The third important thread of what the IABM wants to achieve in the region is to organise various activities and meetings for its members. “We want to start several activities for the members in this region and we think it will be beneficial for them. This will include networking events where the IABM encourages the members with some of the customers such as broadcasters or end users to interact with each other. We also plan to start some activities where members or specialists can present some technological issues, and discuss technology development in the broadcast field,” Ghoul says.
Ghoul is also keen to raise awareness of all of these benefits that are available to members of the IABM. Members can make research and training available to their employees, maximising the benefits they can get from their membership. Ghoul adds that he is also keen to expand membership among home-grown companies in the region. Ghoul feels well-positioned to help serve members in the region from his office in Dubai Media City. “Quite a large number of our users located in this region are based in Dubai. We are also looking to recruit new members from the region. We already have some system integrators and resellers from regional companies that have joined the IABM, and we have a lot of facilities for them including reports, intelligence, training,” he says.
IABM in profile
IABM is the international trade association for suppliers of broadcast and media technology. IABM members represent over 80% of the market’s revenues.
The IABM enables important networking and interactions between suppliers that shape and define the ecosystem of the broadcast and media technology industry.
IABM supports member companies with a comprehensive range of services across market intelligence, training, technology, exhibitions and best practices – all designed to help them do better business. It holds the interests of member companies as paramount, and strives to provide strong guidance and support at every level in all geographies.
IABM’s mission is to be an ever more powerful beacon that is highly responsive to all of its members’ needs in a timely fashion, helping them to prosper and navigate change successfully.
In terms of the challenges facing members, Ghoul points to a number of trends, some which are global and some specific to the region.
“Some of those challenges relate to the development of technology and the change in technology that is taking place on a global basis. Some of the other challenges relate to the commercial environment and the developments in the commercial environment, on a global basis and specifically on a regional basis. Both of these types of challenges are being faced by our members in doing their business in the region.
Looking at the region, Ghoul says that it is clear there are many opportunities with numerous big projects taking place and a number of companies from oversees setting up shop in the region. “We are lucky to be living in a region that still has a good growth potential when it comes to the media business, so media is still developing and growing in this region and this does create a lot of opportunities. This explains why a large number of our members have decided to set up their operations here.”
However, he adds that there are some challenges in terms of the way business is being done in the region, the way projects are often implemented in the region, and the impact the general economic situation has on some of these projects. “It is no secret that we have seen some of the budgets being under pressure over the last couple of years and the media projects our members are involved with have also been effected. We could see this in the way the projects are being developed and the way they are being announced and implemented and decided.
“Cost pressures are being passed on to the manufacturers because the end users in this market are under pressure and have their own challenges to cope with, and all within the limited budgets that they are allocated.”
However, Ghoul also notes that while broadcasters in the region may have had their budgets postponed or cut for certain projects, there is still a significant amount of investment taking place. “We are still seeing projects being announced and being implemented and actually some large projects are also still being implemented,” he says.
Another trend that appears to be quite specific to the Middle East is that Capex appears to be easier than Opex for many broadcasters to secure. This trend is in contrast to other markets around the world.
“While the global market is pushing towards reducing Capex and increasing Opex, I was actually surprised to see that for some of the local broadcasters that formula doesn’t work as well for them as it does for companies in Europe or in the west.
“It seems that because of the way the budgets are decided, and allocated to various projects in certain territories, sometimes it’s easier for some of the broadcasters to get capital budgets rather than Opex type of budgets.”
Hassan Ghoul – CV
After gaining his BEng degree in Electrical Engineering from American University of Beirut back in 1975, Hassan Ghoul started his career in broadcast as a systems engineer at Comsip Entreprises in France. He then became technical sales and marketing supervisor at 3M before moving on to Sony where Ghoul worked as general manager of sales until 2005.
Following his 21 year career at Sony, Ghoul held senior positions at Ascent Media Systems & Technology Services, Tevido LLC, ATG Broadcast, and most recently, Grass Valley, as managing director for the Middle East.
Ghoul joined IABM as director for MENA region in January 2016. He is also a senior partner at Master Media.