With online video consumption in the Middle East set to grow apace in the years ahead, driven primarily by the rapid up-pick in smartphone usage, discussions on how online video consumption would impact the content of the future dominated the first day of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit.
Video-enabled platforms were mooted as the next big thing in media, with most online video being consumed via smartphones. In fact, according to Go-Gulf.ae, the Middle East has the highest smart phone penetration in the world, 45% higher than the global average.
According to Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat, the growing dominance of online video consumption is blurring the lines between different kinds of service providers. “Etisalat’s future growth strategy is based on our view that media providers will offer increasingly holistic services, reflecting the blurring of the boundaries between established telecoms and internet providers,” he told a media panel moderated by Mohammed Al Otaiba, Editor in Chief of The National.
JB Perrette, the President of Discovery Networks International, agreed that the broadcaster’s “main challenge for the future is finding the most effective way to feed the best content into the 10 billion video-enabled devices.”
The panel also agreed that local talent in emerging markets would increasingly tailor international content to suit their own needs. Middle East broadcaster MBC’s drama series Saraya Abdeen, set in 19th century Egypt, is perhaps the most prominent example of this.
“Middle East viewers want content that resonates with them culturally,” Mazen Hayek, Group Spokesperson for MBC Group told Digital Broadcast in a separate interview. “It was for this reason that we invested in Saraya Abdeen, one of the most expensive and successful drama productions ever produced for Middle East TV.”
While Saraya Abdeen is a fully homegrown production, with all sets, costumes, the script and the cast itself drawn from the region, it bears strong similarities in terms of its plot (focusing on a family dynasty in the previous century) to the British production Downton Abbey.
The Abu Dhabi Media Summit panel said that advertisers needed to take account of this adaptation of content for local viewing, as well as the likelihood that traditional news will probably become dominated by content for smaller hand-held devices.