Statistics showed that CABSAT enjoyed a 10% increase in visitor numbers and 30% more exhibitor space than last year. In this wrap-up, we take a look at some of the other factors that also indicated how the show was a reflection of the rapid growth in the Middle East broadcast industry.
CABSAT has now become the proverbial yardstick for manufacturers and systems integrators to gauge the growth rate of the Middle East's broadcast, production and satellite industry.
Although over the last four years, we have seen this show grow bigger, it is only now that companies are beginning to see the event as a launch pad for several new technologies just like they would at IBC and NAB, and yet, it also has the distinct advantage of being small enough for new players to announce their entry and make themselves visible to visitors.
This time, we also saw the heads of international entities take time off from their busy schedule to fly down to Dubai for the show. These are clear indicators of the boom that the Middle East broadcast and production industry is currently enjoying.
One important announcement at CABSAT was the launch of Al Yah Satellite Communications Company PrJsc (Yahsat), a satellite services company owned by the Abu Dhabi government's strategic investment and development arm, Mubadala Development Company.
Yahsat, which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi, claims that it will be the first to bring hybrid satellite technologies to the region and judging by its aggressive investment in satellites and the portfolio of services it is seeking to provide including voice, data, video and internet connectivity solutions, it is clear that the company is looking to compete with the likes of Arabsat and Nilesat and perhaps, at a later period, with international companies as well.
Already, Yahsat has partnered with a consortium of EADS Astrium, Thales and Alenia Space to build a hybrid satellite communications system.
The first satellite Yahsat 1A is currently being built and is slated for launch in the second half of 2010 by Arianespace while its 1B satellite is scheduled for completion in the first half of 2011 by International Launch Services (ILS).
At CABSAT, the company showcased its satellite capabilities, applications and coverage areas for potential business partners seeking a complete range of satellite services.
"By combining deep regional understanding with our partnership approach, we hope to bring great operational flexibility and custom-designed satellite services to a wide range of customers in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South-West Asia," Jassem Mohamed Al Zaabi, CEO of Yahsat, said at the show.
Increasingly, companies have also begun to use the show to launch their products. Last year, Omneon gave CABSAT visitors a sneak preview of its Media Deck before it was officially launched at NAB. This year, Eurostar used CABSAT to announce the global debut of its Green Box, the world's first recyclable satellite receiver.
This product is an FTA receiver and is RoHS (restriction of hazardous substances) compliant. The Green Box includes trickle charge time keeping and an auto switch-off function that ensures low power consumption. All of the big players including Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, JVC and Thomson Grassvalley along with local players like Advanced Media which demonstrated a camera from Silicon Imaging that is said to rival the Red camera.
United Broadcast & Media Solutions (UBMS) stand had several firsts on its stand including a special lens from Fujinon, a dolly and crane from MovieTech, monitors from Marshall Electronics and a new Anton Bauer battery. Oasis Enterprises also had a wide range of products from the manufacturers it represented.
At the show, the UAE's monopoly cable operator, E-Vision announced that the much-awaited video-on-demand service will be available to customers from the fourth quarter of this year. Previously, viewers have only had near VOD services that gave them access to specific movies through E-vision's E-view service.
One of the big issues in the Middle East has been putting in place the infrastructure to make VOD possible and it looks like with the right partnerships in place, E-vision might be better placed to address this now.
Another impressive exhibitor at CABSAT was du, the TECOM-backed telecommunications company that has ambitiously moved forward to provide new broadcast services to the region. On the one hand, du's broadcast arm has partnered with an Italian firm to provide a one-stop solution for any broadcaster looking for turnkey support for the production and playout of sports and live performance coverage.
On the other hand, du has also taken significant steps to improve its IPTV services in the UAE.
At CABSAT, du announced that it will deploy TANDBERG Television's iPlex UltraCompression IPTV video processing and transcoding system as the head-end for its IPTV services.
du's multilingual IPTV service offers more than 15 premium TV packages, in 18 different languages, providing UAE viewers with a wide choice of TV programming, including live sporting events, from around the world.
TANDBERG TV's iPlex UltraCompression HD and SD video processing and transcoding system will provide du with a range of advanced features including bandwidth savings, industry leading density and improved picture quality.
Several high-profile deals were announced at CABSAT including a multi-million dollar deal for the installation of 34 high-end Hitachi cameras and 31 Vinten Radamec robotic pan & tilt heads as part of an ambitious project in Saudi Arabia to begin HD broadcasts from Makkah and Madina in time for Hajj in December 2008.
Other major deals included the first installation of the Omneon MediaGrid at Arab Media Group's broadcast facility in Studio City; several Harris installations at Saudi TV, Sharjah TV, Ajman TV and Cairo, JVC's involvement in a HD OB van in Cairo as well as several installations at Abu Dhabi Media Company as part of its efforts to upgrade to High Definition.
The number of projects in the Middle East has reached such an astounding level that Tim Thorsteinson, president of Harris Broadcast Communications, decided to pay a visit to CABSAT - his first to the show, and to Dubai. Thorsteinson told Digital Studio that the Middle East is one of the top four regions on the radar now for Harris along with India, China and Brazil.
"We see four places outside of North America, where we envision a lot of expansion, and that is India, the Middle East, China and Brazil. These regions used to represent only 8% of our business but now we see a 40% growth in our business in these countries. Consequently, they have becoming very important markets for us," commented Thorsteinson.
As a result, Harris has now opened a new Service Distribution Centre in Dubai and will be handled by DHL.
"Our new Service Distribution Centre will provide a local hub for spare parts, enable our customers to have easy access to local engineers, and allow Harris to respond effectively and quickly to customer needs," confirmed Said Bacho, managing director, Harris Broadcast Communications, Middle East.
In the meantime, other companies have started their first expansion plans in the region. EVS Broadcast and TSL both threw separate parties in Dubai during this period to announce the launch of their respective offices in Dubai Studio City, a well-planned initiative from the Dubai government to enhance the emirate's position as a world production hub.
Avid also had something new to announce at the show by way of a new consulting initiative. Jonathan Crofts, principal business consultant for Avid Consulting, who was at CABSAT confirmed that his team was completing its first Middle East assignment and was in the final stages of agreeing to another major engagement in the region.
"Avid Consulting provides strategic and operational guidance to the Media and Entertainment industry. We work with broadcasters, content production houses, news and sport networks, TV content providers, and facilities around the world to transform the way they make and deliver content to achieve maximum strategic impact. We try to identify opportunities for improving efficiency, increasing effectiveness, and supporting transformation in media and entertainment organisations, whatever their size or complexity. We believe a lot of Middle East customers are now looking for this kind of expertise," commented Crofts.
Another reflection of the growing significance of the show was the 30% increase in exhibitor space from last year, according to CABSAT organisers. CABSAT also confirmed that 9,300 people attended the show this year and this reflects 10% growth over last year.
We also received very encouraging statistics from Tradefair, the event management company for the British technology industry, which stated that the UK Pavilion had grown by 25% at CABSAT 2008. 52 British companies were registered as exhibitors on the pavilion with a further 25 companies participating outside the pavilion.
"The UK pavilion occupied one third of the total floor space at CABSAT this year," stated Mark Birchall, managing director of Tradefair. "We started supporting this show with a UK Pavilion in 2001 with six companies. We are really proud of how it's developed and how we've aided businesses in achieving success in the Middle East. The number of UK companies at CABSAT 2008 is a clear indication of how important the Middle East market has become to the UK broadcast industry."
Technologies in cable & satellite communications, infrastructure, audio and video, broadcast & production solutions and editing devices were demonstrated at the UK pavilion.
On the technology side, a 2007 industry report by the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) claims that HDTV channels will grow by an estimated 600% over the next five years, with an average annual growth of 35%. Recognising the need to further HD knowledge among visitors, CABSAT partnered with Salam Mediacast to put together a "Live" HD Studio, which features a working simulated HD broadcasting environment, including production, post production, tapeless workflow, display, uplink and downlink on Arabsat's BADR-4.
The good news is the growth has only just begun in the Middle East and already there are more than 370 free-to-air channels. According to Booz Allen Hamilton, the Middle East has an attractive TV market, with a large and growing population, an ample number of affluent viewers, and high media consumption.
With more than 200 million people and 38 million households, the region's population is more than half the size of Western Europe. Growth prospects for the TV market in the region are reported to be so positive that by 2015, in three Gulf states and Egypt alone, more than 13 million households are projected to reach medium to high income levels.
All of the statistics and the industry's response seem to confirm that like IBC and NAB, CABSAT has become a must-attend event for Middle East broadcast and production professionals.
Now that the manufacturers and local players have begun to take this show seriously, we believe that CABSAT will be in a better position to partner with companies to provide free workshops and other knowledge exchange programmes to visitors.