It’s a mark of the strength of the region’s broadcast and production industry that even pouring rain in Dubai and gale force winds in Abu Dhabi could not dampen the spirits of visitors and exhibitors to CABSAT and the Digital Studio Awards.
CABSAT once again proved to be a solid show, with top companies from all parts of the sector touting their latest products and services. Initially it appeared that concerns about the regional economy, driven by low oil prices, might lead some companies to express pessimism about the state of the market. But this was not the case. Indeed, numerous companies that Digital Studio spoke to expressed optimism about the potential of the Middle East production and broadcast industry. Companies including OnAir Medya of Turkey said they are planning to open offices in the region, while SAM, which was formed from the merger of Snell and Quantel, is investing heavily in the Middle East and has a clear growth strategy.
If CABSAT did feel a bit smaller than the previous edition, it was probably more due to the fact that most of the satellite operators had been relocated to the new Zabeel Hall, which left the show feeling a bit more spread out and less contiguous than before.
So what is the reason for this optimism at a time when doomsayers are predicting a prolonged global economic slowdown, if not an outright recession? Well part of the answer lies in the fact that in an industry that is changing as fast as broadcast, companies have to invest. Clinging on to technology beyond its time and failing to keep up with the times is not an option. Sure, it’s good to sweat your assets and ensure adequate return on investment, but companies also have to address the latest consumer demands. There’s also the point that Stuart Russell at Ross Video made (see page 55) - investment in technology that increases efficiency actually makes sense at any time and becomes even more pertinent during tough times.
But there’s yet another reason for optimism, and that is the vast untapped potential of the Middle East’s production and broadcast industry. Whatever way you look at it, both sides of the industry remain small compared to other regions. Local production in the Gulf remains in its infancy, FTA advertising revenues are a fraction of what they should be, and Pay-TV subscriptions are also far below international levels. So, in essence, there is everything to play for.
As Sudhanshu Vats, group CEO of Viacom18, mentioned to Digital Studio, there is also huge scope for growth within demographic segments in the Middle East. Vats pointed out that the consumer potential of the Gulf’s South Asian population is grossly undervalued. If valued properly, it could lead to a significant rise in investment in channels and content tailored for this segment of the population.
These points really play back into the issue of audience measurement. As we reported in last month’s issue, most industry insiders are firmly behind the Gulf region’s first ‘peoplemeter’ audience measurement system – tview in the UAE – so let’s hope the concept takes root and spreads across the region.
Certainly, at Digital Studio we hope we are doing our bit to help elevate the industry with the annual Digital Studio Awards. As can be seen from the coverage of last month’s awards, the event brought together some of the region’s most talented industry professionals for an evening that recognised and celebrated success.
Emirati film director Majid Alansari saw his first feature film, Zinzana, scoop three awards for Best Content Creation, Best Editing and Up & Coming Filmmaker of the Year. We hope success stories such as this will truly inspire a new generation of filmmakers and help position the UAE and the region as a hub for film.