Satellite pay TV is still a niche market, says AAG

The Arab world is still mostly tuned to free-to-air satellite TV channels broadcasting mainly from Egypt, UAE and Lebanon, according to a report from the Arab Advisors Group.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  November 5, 2003

The Arab world is still mostly tuned to free-to-air satellite TV channels broadcasting mainly from Egypt, UAE and Lebanon, according to a report from the Arab Advisors Group. Satellite payTV is still a niche market with no more than 1.5% of Arab households subscribing. Still, according to the analyst firm, the four pay TV operators in the region will garner an estimated US$ 160 million in subscription revenues for 2003.

The Arab World has been undergoing an immense growth in satellite TV viewership and content thanks to the decrease in the cost of receivers, the increase in free-to-air channels, and the increase in specialised channels. Moreover, the poor performance of government-owned channels has led to more audiences shifting to satellite TV.

"The slow deregulation of the media industry in some Arab countries has allowed for the emergence of a number of privately owned satellite TV channels," comments Abdelrahaman Pharaon, media research analyst for the Arab Advisors Group. "Some of these privately owned channels such as the ART network are allowed to operate and broadcast out of the Arab World."

The Arab Advisors Group estimates the number of satellite audience in the Arab world to be around 71 million viewers. North African countries, owing to their larger populations, contribute to more than 50% of these viewers, followed by the Gulf countries and the Levant region.

The report, which classifies Arab Satellite TV channels by themes, strategy, ownership and location, shows that the majority of the Arab satellite channels broadcast from Egypt. 34% of the total channels are located in Egypt's Media Production City while 19% are located in Dubai Media City. Lebanon comes after Egypt and UAE with 12%. Saudi Arabia houses 5%, followed by 3% for both Qatar and the United Kingdom. 24% of offices are located in countries in the North African region, Gulf, Levant, Iran, Spain, Mauritania and Somalia. The report also highlights the advances made by pay TV operators in the region. The Arab Advisors Group estimates the total size of pay TV in the Arab World to be around 625,000 households by October 2003 (less than 1.5% of total households).

Accordingly, the analyst firm estimates that the total subscription revenues of pay TV operators in the region will reach US$ 160 million in 2003. The fierce competition between the operators, meanwhile, has brought many advantages to customers such as free installation, free satellite receiver and decoder, all of which indicates the potential for more growth.

The major markets for pay TV remain the richer gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, which have the biggest number of subscribers. However, these still make up a very small portion of the region's TV viewership.

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