Hit series Al Ishq Al Aswad and Game of Thrones boost growth of pay-TV market

Mena region showed the highest growth in pay TV revenues globally last year based on a rise in Arabic content, IHS says.

Actor Kit Harrington as Jon Snow in the Game of Thrones television series of HBO. Courtesy HBO
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The popularity of series including Al Ishq Al Aswad and Game of Thrones is driving the growth of the pay TV market in the UAE and the wider region, according to service providers and analysts.

The Middle East and North Africa recorded the largest increase in subscription-based TV revenues last year globally, according to a report by the market intelligence provider IHS Technology.

Revenues increased to €873 million (Dh3.49 billion) from €702m the previous year as the number of households using pay TV rose 12.4 per cent to 4.8 million.

The region's young, media-literate population with its developed "international tastes in TV content" creates a huge opportunity for investors, according to IHS's senior analyst Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, who wrote the report. Subscription-based TV platforms in the UAE, include du, Etisalat, OSN and Dubai-based My-HD Media.

Local Arabic content and international programming from Turkey, Bollywood and US networks such as HBO, which makes Game of Thrones, are driving the expansion of the pay-TV market. In 2013, the OSN chief executive David Butorac said the company would invest US$500 million up to the end of this year in acquiring local and foreign content.

IHS also attributed the performance of the pay-TV market in the region last year to an increase in Arabic content, anti-piracy measures, and the Fifa World Cup last summer.

However, broadcasters are struggling to make sports programming profitable due to high costs, according to IHS.

The pay-TV market is expected to grow despite the rise of online television providers such as icflix, according to OSN, one of the largest service providers in the region. The growth of pay-TV in the region over the next four years will be five times higher than in the US, UK, Germany, France and Italy, IHS said.

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