Nearly's not enough

Region is ahead of curve in terms of HDTV sales, behind on content.
A satellite link maketh not HD.
A satellite link maketh not HD.

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YahLive, SES and ChannelSculptor have announced that while MENA may be ahead of Europe in terms of HDTV screen sales, increased channel growth and HDTV growth rates relative to the total number of TV channels, its market dynamics still lag behind those of developed markets.

Moreover, despite overwhelming demand for HD TV screens, comparatively few MENA consumers are actually experiencing HD channels.

“Consumers are being forced to settle for low-quality HD broadcasts as the MENA market itself doesn’t provide broadcasters with great financial incentives, thereby depriving consumers of the real emotion-evoking ‘being there’ HD experience,” claimed Mohamed Youssif, CEO of YahLive, which has attracted more than 50 HD channels in the region.

“We can go on about how HD is hot and SD is not, but what lies at the core of unlocking the MENA broadcast industry’s potential is consumer awareness and industry collaboration.”

According to Luxembourg-based SES, which broadcasts more than 1,400 HD channels or 28 percent of all available HD channels across its fleet of 52 satellites, HD is being embraced everywhere, but this rise is significantly greater in MENA compared to the rest of the world.

Consultant Nick Grande of Channel Sculpture asked: “In 2009, MENA had one HD channel, while Europe already had 130 HD channels. Now, more than 10 percent of MENA channels are broadcast in HD compared with 9.3 percent in Europe – MENA’s broadcast market appears to be ahead of the curve, but at what price?”

He continued: “More than 50 percent of MENA’s HD channels are government-owned and 80 percent of these are free-to-air (FTA), limiting the commercialization of HD. Commercializa requires channel encryption, paving the future for paid subscription and the development of a low-pay TV model. However, ‘encryption’ is perceived as a dirty word in this region as governments believe it will undermine emerging HD audiences.”

With so many FTA broadcasters competing for limited advertising revenue, regional revenues are constrained. At the same time they are competing for limited regional satellite capacity. As a result, channels that claim to be high definition are often failing to meet international standards of quality.

“High Definition is the real game changer in broadcast today, we realize there is a great deal of confusion about what constitutes a true HD viewing experience and, in many cases, viewers are receiving poor quality channels that claim or are perceived to be ‘High Definition’,” concluded Youssif. “MENA consumers should not be duped by ‘nearly HD’ channels or the quantity of channels. It’s about quality.”

In numbers
- 10% Of MENA TV channels currently claim to be broadcasting in HD.
- 9.3% Equivalent HD channel share in Europe
- 120 Current HD channels in MENA region
- 28% Of global HD channels are carried by SES

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