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Opportunities and challenges for media and entertainment in the MENA market

By Georges Dabaghi, VP, Head of Sales, Middle East, Africa & India, MediaKind

Nov 11, 2021

It’s been over two and a half years since MENA has been able to come together and showcase the very best cutting-edge, next-generation technologies and solutions on a tradeshow floor. So, it was fantastic to see the pictures, videos, articles, and social media promotion around the return of CABSAT last month – it was a welcome opportunity for our region to reconvene, meet in person and discuss the key priorities and challenges that we face today.

One of the standout areas from my perspective has been the escalating growth and demand for live content and, with that, the growing need to migrate towards all-IP infrastructures. We have discussed this at length over the past two years, but it’s increasingly evident how we have now reached a point beyond simply examining ‘OTT’ or ‘real-time internet video delivery.’ The move to IP is immutable. Broadcasters, content owners, and operators are increasingly investing in remote production workflows, creating new ways to offer higher quality content (e.g., 4K UHD and HDR), and integrating the latest standards (such as SMPTE ST 2110) to enhance delivery processes.

Challenges in the MENA market

From a regional perspective, one of the biggest challenges we face is monetizing content at scale. TV operators in MENA are reaching a critical crossroads in marketing their media services and keeping customers engaged. The ubiquity of OTT streaming services as a content delivery medium is transforming where and how the operator’s customers access media, highlighting how uneven the network infrastructures are across this diverse and varied region. And that diversity and disparity is also reflected in the types of content that generate mass-market appeal. For instance, even across the UAE, there are 126 nationalities, and each community has its own view as to what a high-quality, standalone media service should look like.

And the region’s challenges don’t end there! Others include:

  • Access: We still face critical challenges because fiber deployments have been limited to some of the wealthier MENA countries. 4G and 5G uptake have come at a high cost; as operators look to optimize their bandwidth, they actively avoid offering it free of charge. We can also see how the deregulation of technologies such as CDN caching across borders is more complicated than in Europe or the US. However, this hasn’t limited the growth of digital streaming; according to Digital TV Research, the MENA region will see SVOD subscriptions alone increase to more than 30 million by 2026.
  • Content Rights: The region is relatively more restricted when compared to other parts of the world. It’s still traditionally set up as carriage-only deals, which means operators and broadcasters do not have the full suite to optimize revenues from areas such as ad insertion.
  • Piracy: It’s an issue that continues to afflict the entire media industry, but the sports market is undoubtedly the most affected of all. Piracy is too easy; OTT content is available at a click of a button. Considering how some markets cannot access certain events or matches while others do not have the infrastructure or devices to watch it on, finding effective measures to tackle this issue is a real challenge.

Watch my MediaKind video interview on the evolution of the MENA market!

In the video above, Lisa and I look at recent changes to the MENA market, the shift towards streaming, the opportunities presented by the migration to cloud infrastructures, and how MediaKind enables some of these possibilities to happen.

If you would like to learn more about MediaKind’s MENA region activities, please contact me via Direct Message on LinkedIn.