5:00 with Ali Al Kuwari

Ali Al Kuwari, CEO, Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company
Ali Al Kuwari, Es'Hailsat.
Ali Al Kuwari, Es'Hailsat.

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DS: How was 2015 for your company?

In 2015 our satellite program was very much on track as we continued to deliver on our commitment to enable our customers and stakeholders to substantially increase their broadcasting capabilities and to develop a sustainable national satellite communications sector as part of Qatar’s 2030 vision.

Es’hail-1, our first satellite continued to go from strength to strength, demonstrating the value of our offering in terms of technical capabilities and performance, but also in terms of independence and security of content we broadcast. A growing number of new Arabic channels have chosen Es’hailSat to launch in the MENA region. Both Qatari cultural channel Al Bidda and Al Araby Television Network, a London-based platform for Arab youth, talent, energy and aspirations, recently launched HD channels exclusively on Es’hail-1. And with an increased subscriber growth of 34% since starting transmission on Es’hail-1, beIN Media has just launched new HD entertainment channels, seeking to diversify and expand its audience with new content including film, entertainment and TV series such as travel, lifestyle, kids and documentary programming.

DS: Why were these developments significant?

They have allowed us to deliver on our plan to provide premium satellite capacity and secure communications in the MENA region with the expansion of the Es’hailSat fleet and the creation of our own teleport infrastructure. With Es’hail-2 completing CDR, the spacecraft can now move into the assembly phase and remain on schedule for a Q4 2016 launch. Passing CDR validated that Es’hail-2 will meet our requirements and perform as expected for our customers and stakeholders. Es’hail -2 will provide high-quality, premium DTH content across the Middle East and North Africa from the 26 degrees East TV hotspot. Having our own dedicated teleport is a significant milestone in providing broadcasters in Qatar and the region with a wide range of teleport services such as uplink, downlink, contribution, multiplexing, encoding, playout services tailored for their needs. The high-tech teleport will also provide back-up studios for TV channels and serve as a disaster recovery facility for broadcasters. The site will be connected to the key media broadcasters in Qatar by means of a dedicated fibre optic link. Design for the new teleport is expected to be ready by Q1 2016 and the site build and project completed by Q1 2017.

DS: What were the main challenges that you faced as a company in 2015?

With Es’hail-1 almost full, our biggest challenge is to continue to provide our stakeholders and customers with capacity and services that fit the needs of the MENA market and to find new investment opportunities for continued growth. With Es’hail-2 on schedule for launch in Q4 2016 and future investment plans in development, we believe we are well placed to address both of these challenges.

DS: What was your perception of the overall business climate in 2015?

Our perception of 2015 was overall very positive. The digital media sector in the MENA region is dynamic and continues to grow. And research predicts it will further grow annually by 7% from 2016-2019. This growth is in part fuelled by premium local Arabic content. With Es’hail-1 in operation and our second satellite Es’hail-2 on schedule for 2016, we are ideally placed to support the continued growth and expansion of media organisations from our 25.5/26E broadcasting hotspot by providing premium content, communications independence, quality of service and market penetration.

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