MENA pay TV impacted by piracy, OTT platforms

The ‘Middle East and North Africa Pay TV Forecasts’ report from Digital TV Research found that pay TV revenues for 20 MENA countries declined 11% to just under US$3 billion (€2.6 billion) between 2016 and 2018.
Pay-TV in the MENA region is expected to reach 5.23 million subscribers by 2024 according to Digital TV Research.
Pay-TV in the MENA region is expected to reach 5.23 million subscribers by 2024 according to Digital TV Research.

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The past two years have seen pay TV revenues decline in the Middle East and North Africa region according to Digital TV Research’s latest ‘Middle East and North Africa Pay TV Forecasts’ report. The report cited piracy, competition from OTT providers and the Saudi-led ban on BeIN Media as the chief reasons as revenue per user numbers fell in the region.

The ‘Middle East and North Africa Pay TV Forecasts’ report from Digital TV Research found that pay TV revenues for 20 MENA countries declined 11% to just under US$3 billion (€2.6 billion) between 2016 and 2018.

Pay TV revenues across the region are forecasted to be lower in 2024 at US$3.28 billion, than the 2016 revenues which stood at US$3.36 billion.

The research found that within the 13 Arab-speaking countries in MENA, pay TV revenues fell 16% from US$1.25 billion in 2016 to US$1.06 billion in 2018, but are expected to recover by 2024 to US$1.43 billion. In terms of subscriber numbers, pay TV fell 9.5% between 2016 and 2018 to 3.40 million subs, but are expected to hit 5.23 million by 2024. 

The rise of OTT platforms such as Netflix and StarzPlay Arabia has seen traditional television giant struggle to retain consumers who opt for cheaper, on-demand streaming as opposed to Pay TV. Dubai based pay-TV operator OSN witnessed a drop in Q3 revenue compared to the same period in 2017 prompting a review of various revenue opportunities and cost rationalisation initiatives by shareholder KIPCO. The company which provides satellite encrypted pay television services to 24 countries in the MENA region appointed board member Patrick Tillieux as their new CEO in Nov 2018.

BeIN alone lost an estimated 47% of its subscriber base in the two years to the end of 2018 to take its total down to 525,000. “Pay TV in the MENA region has been hit by a Saudi-led ban on the sale of Qatar-backed BeIN decoders and subscriptions since mid-2017,” said Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research.

“The ban has been compounded by BeoutQ, an illegal platform that retransmits some of BeIN’s content especially its exclusive sports rights. The region is no stranger to piracy, but the sophistication of the BeoutQ operation is beyond anything seen before.

“BeIN is fiercely protesting BeoutQ, with the support of major content owners, especially sports federations. We believe that the situation will be resolved in 2019; given the international pressure to drop the ban and to close BeoutQ.”

BeIN Media has in the past week set up a website to detail the entire issue and expose what it says is “the industrial scale theft” of sports and entertainment content.

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