Expertise Zone

Op-ed: Why satellite still matters most In MENA

TV Connect MENA

TV Connect MENA

Guest post from TV Connect MENA (2-3 November 2015 Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai) keynote, Robert Lakos, ex-Chief Commercial Officer, MY-HD

The uptake of satellite TV in MENA has been phenomenally successful, with the region now numbering 55-60 million satellite TV households, watching upwards of three hours of TV every day.

Cost is a big part of satellite TV’s popularity in the region. Most people can go out and buy a full installation, receiver, and dish, not to mention someone who can crawl on the balcony and install it, for about 50-60 US dollars – and in certain areas even less.

However, in recent years many have started talking about OTT, and wondering if internet delivery is going to take over from satellite as the main means of delivering television to these households. For those of us who live in the UAE it’s probably true. But I don’t think this is really viable for the mass market in the region.

Whether it’s Algeria or Egypt or Jordan or Sudan, or conflict-zones like Iraq or Syria or Libya, these are all areas where people don’t have functional access to the sort of broadband bandwidth they would need to replace satellite TV with internet TV.

In addition, the delivery mechanism needs to be as reliable as satellite. This is a tough thing to do. You can keep your satellite tuned to Arabsat , Nilesat or Etisalat 24/7, beaming in an HD channel, and it doesn’t wave or blink. Can you do that with an internet connection even in Dubai? No.

People like to disparage these 15 dollar set-top boxes from China, but 15 dollars gets you 1000+ channels of TV from multiple satellites, and they keep going even in harsh conditions. They are more reliable than smartphones, laptops and computers, and they’re extremely affordable.

For the average MENA household in lower income areas, TV is the most affordable and preferred form of entertainment. People can come home and watch a couple of hours without any problem. They don’t have to update their software, they don’t have to fight with their neighbour over resetting the Wi-Fi router, they don’t have to call up their local telco because of a dodgy DSL connection. It’s reliable and it’s cheap.

All of these topics matter because, not only is TV a vital source of information in the region, but it is just as important as a form of distraction and entertainment. People in in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya – they are still watching TV, and it’s fair to say that it’s more important to them than ever. They may not be able to go out to a restaurant, or to the cinemas, but they still watch TV when things are bad.

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