YahLive, the HD television satellite platform for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, SES, the DTH global satellite broadcast operator, and ChannelSculptor, a Dubai-based TV content and broadcast consultancy, have revealed that whilst MENA may be ahead of Europe in terms of HDTV demand as measured by high HDTV screen sales, increased channel growth and HDTV growth rates relative to the total number of TV channels, its market dynamics still lag behind those of developed markets. Moreover, despite overwhelming regional demand for HD TV screens, comparatively few MENA consumers are actually experiencing HD channels.
“Consumers are being forced to settle for low-quality HD broadcasts as the MENA market itself doesn’t provide broadcasters with great financial incentives, thereby depriving consumers of the real emotion-evoking ‘being there’ HD experience,” Mohamed Youssif, CEO of YahLive, MENA’s ‘Home of HD,’ which has also attracted more than 50 of the existing 100 HD channels in the region. “We can go on about how HD is hot and SD is not, but what lies at the core of unlocking the MENA broadcast industry’s potential is consumer awareness and industry collaboration.”
According to Luxembourg-based SES, which broadcasts more than 1,400 HD channels or 28 per cent of all available HD channels across its fleet of 52 satellites, HD is being embraced everywhere –- HD screen penetration worldwide is increasing, but this rise is significantly greater in MENA compared to the rest of the world. While the total number of TV channels worldwide will only increase by 50 per cent, the total number of HDTV channels is forecasted to grow by 250 per cent by 2020.
By 2015, smart TVs will comprise 55 per cent of the market as 141 million units are anticipated to be sold around the globe. In 2012, an estimated 66 million units were soled, comprising 27 per cent of the overall market.Meanwhile, the MENA region continues to be a lucrative market for smart TV sales and the primary revenue driving market for leading consumer electronics manufacturers like Samsung and Sony.
“In 2009, MENA had one HD channel, whilst Europe already had 130 HD channels. Now, more than 10 percent of MENA channels are broadcast in HD compared with 9.3 per cent in Europe – MENA’s broadcast market appears to be ahead of the curve, but at what price?,” stated Nick Grande, managing director of ChannelSculptor, a Dubai-based TV content and broadcast consultancy.
In MENA there are an estimated 650 FTA channels, comprising more than 70 per cent of the region’s total number of channels. In contrast, FTA channels globally represent less than 10 per cent of the more than 30,000 TV channels worldwide. “More than 50 per cent of MENA’s HD channels are government-owned and 80 per cent of these are free-to-air (FTA), limiting the commercialisation of HD,” stated Nick Grande, managing director of ChannelSculptor, a Dubai-based TV content and broadcast consultancy
“Commercialisation of HD requires channel ‘encryption,’ paving the future path for paid subscription and the development of a low-pay TV model. However, ‘encryption’ is perceived as a dirty word in this region as governments believe that it will undermine emerging HD audiences.”
With so many FTA broadcasters competing for a relatively small advertising revenue market, regional broadcasters’ revenues are constrained. At the same time they are competing for limited regional satellite capacity. As a result, regional channels that claim to be high definition are often failing to meet internationally accepted standards of quality.
“High Definition is the real game changer in broadcast today, we realise there is a great deal of confusion about what constitutes a true HD viewing experience and, in many cases, viewers are receiving poor quality channels that claim or are perceived to be ‘High Definition’,” said Youssif. “MENA consumers should not be duped by ‘nearly HD’ channels or the quantity of channels. It’s about quality. YahLive, in collaboration with SES, had the foresight to see the HD phenomenon that is sweeping across the world, and especially in the MENA region, and we aim to make life and HDTV easier by offering the most sought-after content on a platform that is exclusive to HD content. Just because you have a HDTV does not mean you are getting the channel in HD.”
YahLive, which broadcasts from the Yahsat satellite at 52.5 degrees East, offers true ‘native’ High Definition channels which viewers can receive for free simply by installing a dish.