If all goes according to plan, football fans in the UAE may be able to watch the English Premier League in HD from August 2010. The infrastructure is in place and the key players have been linked by optical fibre to make HD transmission possible. Even du, Etisalat’s competitor will begin the commercial rollout of HDTV services in August.
Already, Abu Dhabi Media Company, the rights holder of EPL broadcasts in the MENA region for three seasons starting August 2010, is launching an HD channel in October and plans to show some of the Premiership matches on it.
But will it go one step further and make the EPL entirely available on HD? We don’t know yet. ADMC and E-vision are still holding discussions.
It won’t be that difficult. Both are government entities working towards the common goal of taking the country forward in terms of broadcast and production standards. ADMC has been gradually migrating Abu Dhabi TV’s facilities to HD over the last couple of years while E-vision has been laying the infrastructure to make transmission possible.
Many other players in the region have also been gearing up for HD. When Showtime won the EPL rights previously, it put in place HD-ready infrastructure to ensure that it was investing in the technology of the future. The pay-TV operator already has a special channel called Showtime HD on E-vision. The channel includes a selection of movies, sport and other entertainment in the HD format.
State-broadcaster Dubai Media Inc. has also been gradually migrating its legacy systems to HD over the last couple of years.
The coming year will be a very interesting one for the production and broadcast sector. Although several small production houses were shooting in HD, the clear defining moment for this region has been the commercial rollout of HD services by E-vision.
With HD transmission available now, more companies will be persuaded to shoot in HD and more broadcasters will want to be a part of the movement.
Marc-Antoine d’Halluin, CEO of the newly-merged Showtime and Orbit, promised at a recent press conference that a bouquet of new HD channels will be available from the group soon. He said the company was waiting to launch the right HD box at an affordable price.
More importantly, if the industry’s claims — that more than 600,000 HD-ready televisions sets have been sold in the UAE over the last five years — are anything to go by, it is certain that lifestyle-conscious consumers here will make the switch.