Arabic Satellite TV comes into its own

ARABIC SATELLITE TV has finally come into its own, from its lacklustre beginning and chequered progression just a decade and half ago. In 1990, there was only one Arabic channel in the Middle East. Today, the region has about 270, second only to the...

By Vijay Dandige (Contributor)

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Published: Tue 6 Mar 2007, 10:31 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:23 AM

maryamnumber of satellite channels in English internationally. Over 30 Arabic channels are transmitted out of the UAE alone. What has driven this growth of TV broadcasting in the region?

"There are some major reasons for it," says Maryam Al Mehairi, assistant project manager, CABSAT 2007, the 13th Middle East International Cable and Satellite, Broadcast and Satellite Communications Event that is to take place from March 6 to 8 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

"Basically, it's the penetration of TV to consumers. The region has registered substantial growth in population, coupled with the attendant growth of market value. Moreover, in the Middle East, it is direct-to-home satellite based TV, so it's lot easier for producers to broadcast their content out."

Al Mehairi points out that in terms of TV broadcasting consumers' taste in the region has changed. "More and more we are seeing niche TV channels, rather than channels that cater to everything, channels like Real Estate TV, Decision- Makers TV, Action TV. Currently, Arabic channels have more niche segments in the region, as compared to English channels."

Arabic satellite channels have also gone from merely filling-in time slots to exerting a significant impact on contemporary Middle East society.

"For example, there is the Real Estate TV, which has come about because of the current real estate boom in the UAE," says Al Mehairi.

"So the impact of such channels is great because they are fulfilling a need of consumers to know."

This impact is also reflected in the rising economic value of the sector.

Another major milestone for Arabic satellite TV is that more and more international channels are expected to come out with Arabic content, like the BBC. While on the other hand, traditional Arabic channels have gone international, like Dubai TV whose Dubai One broadcasts English content and Al Jazeerah which is coming out with English programmes.

"So it's happening both ways," says Al Mehairi.

Despite the plethora of channels, Al Mehairi believes there is potential for more.

"For example, currently, there is no Arabic morning breakfast show, also Reality TV," she says. "So, as long as there is demand for information, for media, there will always be new channels."

CASBAT 2007, an industry event that is expected to attract over 500 electronic media and satellite communications companies from over 50 countries, is poised to introduce new elements: high-definition TV, mobile TV, IPTV and Broadband via satellite.

"We'll see the emergence of technologies that would change the way viewers look at TV," says Al Mehairi. "For instance, mobile TV technology enabling broadcasters to transmit content to hand sets."

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