The boom in smart phone and Internet penetration is transforming traditional television (TV) viewership patterns in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), creating a vast, fertile market for over-the-top (OTT) video services, according to Over-the-top (OTT) Video Services to Transform TV Viewing in Middle East and North Africa Forecast to 2021, a new report from consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan.
In addition to government support for Internet ubiquity and large-scale digital transformation, the presence of a large, young population that is well acquainted with mobile technology is attracting significant investments to this market.
“Competition is heating up in the market as key participants are figuring out the best-fit revenue models,” said Frost & Sullivan Digital Transformation Research Analyst Aafia Bathool. “Currently there are 75 million viewers with only 2.3 million paying subscribers throughout the region, indicating a slow conversion of registered to paid viewers. However, this could potentially grow to 20 million by 2020,” added Research Director Vidya S Nath.
The team suggests that strategic alliances among stakeholders, an optimum mix of local and international content, competitive pricing, and a sophisticated, user-friendly interface will all go a long way in increasing service adoption and accelerating market growth. With international players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video having a regional footprint, the onus is on local players such as STARZ Play, beIN Sports Connect, MBC Shahid, OSN GO, icflix, and others to formulate compelling content strategies to consolidate their position in the market.
While overall Internet penetration levels have rocketed, the lack of uniformity in broadband availability hinders the provision of OTT services to various countries that have a large installed base of legacy technology. Furthermore, viewers are accustomed to free-to-air (FTA) channels and pirated online videos due to the lack of a regulatory framework. The consequent sluggish uptake of paid subscriptions has slowed the return on investment on OTT services, giving pause to several broadcasters.
The customer experience and user interface in the MENA OTT market needs to be richer and more user friendly to win more subscribers. OTT companies can overcome these shortcomings by adopting effective methods for personalisation and customisation, and employing analytical tools. In its current stage of evolution, OTT is heavily reliant on TV for advertising and content. Service providers that develop a hybrid model that combines TV and OTT will entrench themselves in the market.
“The escalating demand from a tech-savvy population for quality international and exclusive Arabic content is encouraging OTT video service providers to stream videos and other big-ticket events, such as live sports, online,” noted Bathool. “The pricing, data analytics, and video quality will determine the OTT market leader in the next five years.”