Satellite television viewers across the Middle East are set to get a bigger choice of high-definition viewing.
The UAE-based satellite broadcast company YahLive has struck a deal with Abu Dhabi Media (ADM) to broadcast six of its channels in HD throughout the region.
It comes as ADM, which owns and publishes The National, seeks to boost its high-definition services in the Middle East and Europe, where two of the channels will be beamed.
"If you're running a media business, you have got to decide whether you run ahead of consumer demand and play some role in being a catalyst in the market or follow it," said Malcolm Wall, the chief executive of ADM, in an interview yesterday. "The uptake of HD seems very strong. We'll be looking at whether to extend that offering to some of our other channels, particularly our sports channels." Broadcasters across the Middle East are gauging demand for high-definition services without the benefit of accurate data to reflect the level of demand from the public and with an uncertain global economic backdrop weighing on people's purchasing decisions.
Still, television continues to gobble up global advertising market share, which is encouraging investment by many broadcasters in high-definition services. Deloitte estimated television advertising grew by about US$10 billion (Dh36.73bn) last year, with some 40 million new viewers. In the developing markets of the Middle East and North Africa, lower average incomes have limited the ability of some broadcasters to invest in additional services.
Without the prospect of significant additional revenue coming from selling high-definition channels, the case for HD can be as much about preventing the migration of customers to rival operators.
YahLive currently carries about 30 HD channels, with plans to boost that to about 50 by the end of the year. "The addition of exclusive Abu Dhabi media channels means that our customers will be able to view some of the biggest sporting events and leading entertainment all in highest-quality HD," said Mohamed Youssif, the chief executive of YahLive.
The HD channels covered by yesterday's deal are Abu Dhabi Drama, Al Oula, Al Emarat, Abu Dhabi Sports 1 and 2 and National Geographic Arabic. The tie-up between the pair could also boost ADM's presence in Europe among expatriate Arabs missing sitcoms and football matches from home. The satellite used by Yahsat to beam television into the region also has coverage over western Asia and Europe.
"The Arab diaspora is spread across Europe and indeed North America. One of the things we are looking at with Yahsat is the opportunity of bringing even small groups of Arabs in Europe some new television channels," said Mr Wall.
YahLive is a unit of Al Yah Satellite Communications, which is owned by Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.