The tackle-up of satellite TV and cable is growing faster in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world. The region currently has about 25m satellite and cable households. However, satellite pay-TV is still a niche market, with no more than 1.5% of Arab households subscribing, according to the findings in a specialist report.
Most of the Arab world remains tuned to free-to-air satellite TV channels which broadcast mainly from Egypt, the UAE and Lebanon, said the Arab Advisors Group (AAG), a telecoms and media consultancy based in Jordan.
In their report, Satellite TV in the Arab World, the AAG estimate the total size of pay-TV in the Arab world in late 2003 at around 625,000 households (less than 1.5% of total households).
The major markets for pay-TV remain the richer Gulf countries, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE leading the field. The bulk of the marker is currently shared by Showtime and Orbit, with the remainder split bcrween Arab Radio and Television (ART) and Arab Digital Distribution (ADD), according to AAG president Jawad Abbassi. He confirmed that the four main pay-TV operators in the region were competing for an estimated $160m in subscription revenues in 2003 and that the fierce rivalry between them means new customers can enjoy a growing range of incentives, including free installation charges and flee satellite receivers mid decoders, all of which are intended to stimulate further growth.
Free-to-air satellite TV
In the free-to-air satellite TV sector, more than 90 channels are competing for over 71m viewers in the Arab world.
The immense growth in satellite TV viewers and content has been driven mainly by factors related to technological advances. The decreasing cost of receivers and the spread of specialised channels have played an important role in expanding audience size.
Another factor has been the poor performance of government-owned channels, which have seen viewers in the Arab world drift away by failing to offer them sufficiently entertaining programming. The major satellite TV audience--more than 50%--comes from North Africa, with its large populations, followed by the Gulf and the Levant, with the majority of advertising focused on the Gulf market.
The majority of Arab satellite channels broadcast from Egypt with some 34% of these located in Cairo's Media Production City. A further 19% are beamed out of Dubai Media City. Lebanon takes third place, after Egypt and the UAE with 12% of the total, Saudi Arabia accounts for 5%, followed by 3% each for both Qatar and the United Kingdom. …