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Middle East TV space ripe for consolidation, says MBC

The free-to-air TV market in the Middle East is due for consolidation with hundreds of channels competing for a small proportion of the ad market, according to MBC’s commercial director. 

Speaking to DTVE, Mazen Hayek said that while the region has some 700 free-to-air channels, roughly 650 of them are competing for just 90% to 95% of advertising spend.

“The top 15 channels in the region account for something like 70% viewing share and audience share and commercial revenue share. If you take the top 50 channels, you’ll get to something like 90 or 95% audience and commercial revenue share. Which leaves you with 650 free-to-air channels struggling for 5% or 10% max of the market,” said Hayek.

“This leads to the need for greater consolidation, and probably mergers and acquisitions, so it’s impossible to leave that huge number unless there is subsidies, government support or personal agendas by which one is ready to just have a TV channel and lose money for having it.”

Speaking about MBC’s plans for the rest of the year, he said the Middle Eastern broadcaster’s focus is around increased localisation of content and multiscreen delivery.

“The future may not be only in the number of channels you launch, but rather in your ability to connect with audiences through various platform,” Hayek said. “Content is King, but content still has to be rightly packaged, rightly delivered, sharply targeted and obviously promoted.”

Along with plans to eventually tailor-make MBC’s flagship gameshows and talkshows so that they are targeted to specific markets, Hayek said that MBC is also aiming to grow its Shahid video-on-demand site to “the best library of video-on-demand and premium content and user-generated content in this part of the world.”

MBC launched in 1991 as the first private free-to-air satellite broadcasting company in the Arab World. In 2011 the now Dubai-based firm started to air seven of its channels in HD and currently has a suite of 12 channels airing a range of content –including movies, news, family content and general entrainment. It is also home to Arab world adaptations of popular formats like Got Talent, The Voice and Idol.

For the full MBC interview click here to see DTVE’s March 2013 Middle East and Africa Update.