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Mobile, Digital Video Set to Explode in the Middle East and Africa

TMCnet Feature

August 13, 2013

Mobile, Digital Video Set to Explode in the Middle East and Africa

By Tara Seals
TMCnet Contributor

Connected TV is rapidly evolving in the Middle East and North Africa, with providers, broadcasters and manufacturers such as STC, Orbit Showtime Network (OSN) and Samsung already offering consumers increased access to content through smart devices, according to new research from Informa Telecoms & Media (News - Alert).

The number of connected devices, particularly tablets, is fueling demand for OTT, cloud and multiscreen services in MENA, and is expected to dramatically increase over the next five years. Informa said that 6.5 million tablets were sold across the Middle East and Africa in 2012. That figure is forecast to increase to a whopping 32.1 million in 2016.

"The OTT-content and services landscape across MENA has traditionally been rather barren, but the situation is changing quickly with OTT start-ups starting to emerge, and the number of rival operator initiatives increasing,” said Michael Dean, research analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

Helping things along is the fact that mobile broadband may be in the nascent stages across much of the region, but it is increasingly becoming a greater growth area for rural Internet users in many MENA markets.

“In addition, the Gulf Cooperation Council is scheduling to have LTE (News - Alert) networks in place by end-2013, meaning there will be a further rise in mobile data usage,” Dean said. “This will undoubtedly place more demand on increased content delivery. Saudi Arabia and the UAE alone already have traditionally high levels of TV content consumption.”

For example, according to OSN, the average household in that region watches six to seven hours of TV content per day. Multiscreen access will presumably bolster that considerably, and some vendors are already jumping into the opportunity.

For instance, Samsung (News - Alert) just announced that its connected televisions are to feature a catch-up television service from OSN, providing regional viewers with the opportunity to stream shows on-demand up to 14 days after they were transmitted. The OSN Play platform is already available as an app on Samsung tablets, smartphones and laptops in MENA, but this expands the multiscreen access for subscribers.

"Our continuing partnership with Samsung now allows OSN subscribers with Samsung's 2013 Smart TVs to access a wide array of their favorite content on demand,” said David Hanson, director of digital at OSN. The OSN Play platform includes content from TV channels such as: OSN Movies, OSN First, OSN Sports 1 & 2, Disney (News - Alert), National Geographic and Food Network.”

Recent research from Samsung indicates that 88 percent of its smart TV consumers' time is now dedicated to video streaming, and so there is an increase in popularity for on-demand apps on the company’s connected TVs.

"OSN Play adds to the growing amount of high quality content that we have made available for consumers at the click of a button,” said Vinod Nair, general manager for the TV business, Samsung Gulf Electronics. “By offering OSN Play on our Smart TVs we are bringing the latest movies and TV shows to our consumers, giving them more choice, flexibility and enhancing their viewing experience."

Across the region, the idea of "bringing online entertainment to the biggest screen at home is inevitable,” said Hadi Raad, head of marketing for emerging Arabia at Google (News - Alert), which is making the deployment of whitespace-based broadband in Africa a main push in the region. “I'm thrilled with all the developments making consumer experience rich and ubiquitous," Raad added.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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