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Encryption would boost HD in MENA, say industry players

The Middle East and North Africa region is still lagging behind advanced markets in the development of HD services, despite being ahead of Europe in terms of HD screen sales growth and HDTV growth relative to the total number of TV channels, according to a study by HD platform operator YahLive, satellite operator SES and Dubai-based broadcast consultancy ChannelSculptor. 

According to the study, despite growth in demand for HD screens, relatively few MENA viewers were actually experiencing HD channels.

MENA has an estimated 650 free-to-air channels, representing 70% of the total number of channels, a far higher proportion than the global average. Over 10% of MENA channels are now broadcast in HD, compared with 9.3% in Europe, according to the study. However, HD broadcasts are often of low quality.

“Consumers are being forced to settle for low-quality HD broadcasts as the MENA market itself doesn’t provide broadcasters with great financial incentives, thereby depriving consumers of the real emotion-evoking ‘being there’ HD experience,” said Mohamed Youssif, CEO of YahLive.

“More than 50% of MENA’s HD channels are government-owned and 80% of these are free-to-air, limiting the commercialization of HD,” said Nick Grande, managing director of ChannelSculptor. “Commercialisation of HD requires channel ‘encryption,’ paving the future path for paid subscription and the development of a low-pay TV model. However, ‘encryption’ is perceived as a dirty word in this region as governments believe that it will undermine emerging HD audiences.”