The social and political turmoil that has rocked the Middle East and North Africa region has resulted in liberalisation measures which will open up the pay-TV sector, according to research firm Digital TV Research. Digital TV penetration for the 16 countries covered in its Digital TV Middle East & North Africa report is already approaching 70 per cent of television households.
According to report author and company principal Simon Murray, digital penetration will reach 85 per cent of TV households by 2017. Ten countries will achieve 100 per cent penetration [and Israel will be the first to reach it – in 2012] by 2017. Penetration in Egypt, the largest Arab-speaking market, will be low at 58 per cent. However, Egypt will boast 11.98 million digital TV homes by 2017; putting it into second-place behind Turkey [18.89 million].
More than 56 per cent of TV households watch free-to-air DTH signals. There are more than 500 FTA channels serving the Arab world, many of which do not operate in a true commercial environment as they are funded by their local government or by a wealthy patron. FTA DTH penetration will continue to vary considerably among the 16 countries; being highest in Algeria (88 per cent), Jordan (86 per cent), Lebanon (83 per cent) and Morocco (83 per cent) by 2017.
Only 12.6 per cent of TV households legitimately paid for TV signals (analogue and digital) by end-2011. This proportion will climb gradually to 17.1 per cent by 2017. Israel will record 78 per cent pay-TV penetration by 2017, with two more countries above 50 per cent. However, pay-TV penetration will be below 10 per cent of TV households in seven countries. Even so, the number of pay-TV homes will double between 2007 and 2017 to 12.3 million, with Turkey accounting for more than half the total.
Legitimate pay-TV revenues for the 16 countries will grow by more than 20 per cent between 2012 and 2017 to US$3.67 billion. DTH will continue to dominate, though IPTV will grow fast and cable will lose share. Turkey and Israel are expected to contribute US$2.4 billion of the 2017 total, leaving only US$1.3 billion for the remaining 14 countries (or an average of US$91 million each).