55 new Free To Air Sat TV stations have started broadcasting in the last 18 months, bringing the total to 155 FTA Arab Sat TV stations. Arab Advisors Group’s analysis reveals that the 55% growth in FTA Sat TV stations (some with excellent quality and expensive content) has increased the pressure on the PAY TV operators in the region. The three main Pay TV operators are cutting prices and expanding offerings in a bid to maintain a differentiated service.
A new report, “Satellite TV in the Arab World 2005” was released to the Arab Advisors Group’s Media Strategic Research Service subscribers on July 7, 2005. The 33-pages report, which has 23 detailed exhibits, provides a detailed analysis of the Arab Sat TV industry and channels on FTA and Pay TV.
“The Arab world has witnessed a huge transformation in the TV industry over the past 10 years. The viewers in the region now have a large variety of TV choice available as terrestrial, Pay-TV and enormously Free-to-Air (FTA) satellite channels. There are two satellite systems providers that cater to the Arab region, Arabsat and Nilesat. Together these two satellites provide 155 Free-to-Air TV channels, more than 20 free radio stations, and carry the TV and radio channels of the three main Pay-TV providers in the region, ART, Orbit and Showtime.” Mr. Judeh Siwady, Arab Advisors Sr. Research Analyst wrote in the report.
“Pay-TV operators have been struggling to gain more subscribers amidst the flood of well-financed FTA channels. With the growth of the satellite free TV channels, the task is becoming more challenging. The year 2004 has witnessed an alteration in the strategies of most of the FTA channels in terms of program content, which -for some- now rivals that of the Pay-TV channels. For example the MBC network changed the content of its English entertainment channel, MBC2, and introduced the first free satellite channel exclusively broadcasting American movies, and pushed its non-movies entertainment programs to MBC4. With the appeal and popularity of western reality and game shows, and Arab TV stations buying the rights to remake these shows, viewers are increasingly getting wide choices from these FTA channels and many see no need to subscribe to any of the pay-TV networks.” Mr. Judeh added.
Another issue that concerns the Arab region’s TV industry is the wide spread adoption of illegal satellite de-encryption devices and the illegal cable distributors. It is relatively easy for individuals to purchase a receiver and get pirated smart cards for foreign Pay-TV channels. The encoding is available either through built-in encoding software, through the insertion of a smart card or a CAM (Conditional Access Module). The distribution of illegal TV cables to households is usually done when an individual gathers a variety of subscriptions from Pay-TV at home and adds to that some foreign encrypted channels and the available FTA channels, and retransmits them as packages to neighboring houses. This phenomena is seen in Lebanon and Egypt, and the price per month is minimal, around 10 US$ per month.