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MBC: “Thousands more MENA channels” possible

Middle East Broadcasting

(MBC) CEO Sam Barnett, speaking at IBC, said that his region is already home to about 1,000 channels, many of them small and serving local audiences, and that it could absorb “several thousands more”. He said 100 were launched last year, about 43 in Kurdish alone.

“There are lots more to come,” he added.Barnett said that the normal broadcast expectations of hybrid services, of web-based extras, do not apply in the MENA region, although he explained that Saudi Arabia had the highest penetration of Twitter accounts, and the most active Twitter users in the world.MBC claims 48% market share for its portfolio of 18 channels.

Half of the region’s 57 million TVHHs have access to the internet, in some countries the proportion was very high, and ownership of smart phones was commonplace. “In some countries it is difficult to produce or upload content. Consequently it is much easier to upload that content via social media.“About 92-93% of our huge audience view us on satellite, and viewership is growing.

Our current numbers are about 350 million, all speaking more or less the same language. About 55 million homes watch us free-to-air. Our youth viewing is up 5%.“Under Saddam Hussein, satellite TV in Iraq was completely banned. Iraq now has better than 90% access to satellite TV.

“However, the downside of this somewhat anarchic distribution model is that it is extremely difficult to bring in on-line and other on-demand services on the hundreds of different set-top box versions.
In other words, free-to-air still dominates viewing. When a Palestinian contestant won last year’s Arab Idol show, we had an audience of 92 million.”