Pay-TV subscriptions set to reach 5.1 million in MENA by end-2016, but there is still plenty of room for growth
Published on 31 October 2012 by Michael Dean
Middle East & North America (MENA) pay-TV subscriptions by country, 2005-2016
Pay TV in the Middle East and North Africa has traditionally proved sluggish in comparison with other regions.
But MENA pay-TV services have come a long way in the past decade, and from 2005 to end-2011, the number of pay-TV subs in the region rose by about 1.9 million. Forecast data from Informa Telecoms & Media’s new WTVIS database shows that the figure will further increase by about 1.7 million in the coming years, to total 5.1 million by end-2016.
Despite accelerated growth in the near future, by end-2016 pay-TV subs will still account for only about 10% of all MENA TV households. The major inhibitor to pay-TV take-up in the region – both now and until the end of the forecast period – is the plethora of regional free-to-air DTH channels and the ubiquity of access to them. And in spite of recent efforts by major pay-TV providers such as OSN to clamp down on illegal activity, TV piracy remains uninhibited and widely practiced by many of the region’s TV households.
Informa is nonetheless still forecasting growth in the MENA pay-TV market, and some countries are taking the lead in pushing up the regional subscription total.
Egypt has traditionally been the region’s largest TV market, as well as the biggest market for pay TV. By end-2016, the number of subs in the country will have increased 36%, to about 1.4 million. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both traditional regional leaders in pay TV, will also see their subs count increase in the period, to about 1.6 million (76% growth) and 899,000 (29% growth), respectively.
The key driver for growth remains services such as Al Jazeera Sport that are putting the cost of pay TV within the reach of the mass market. The burgeoning middle class and predominantly young population in most countries are other factors contributing to the rise in subscription numbers.
What’s more, the social and political turmoil that stirred MENA in the Arab Spring has resulted in the liberalization of some TV markets. Liberalization should spur the development of pay-TV competition and in turn help advance the sector.