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Arab pay-TV subs hit 4.35m, led by OSN and beIN Sports

Number of regional households paying for television packages has quadrupled in 10 years, according to IHS

Published: Updated:

The number of Arab households paying for TV subscriptions hit 4.35 million at the end of 2013, and is growing faster than in any other emerging market, according to research firm IHS.

The pay-TV market in the Middle East and North Africa has quadrupled in the last 10 years, IHS said, adding that there are “huge growth opportunities” in the region.

“There are 300 million households in the region and it is growing faster than any other emerging market,” said report author Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, a senior analyst at IHS Technology. “That presents huge opportunities for businesses in this sector… We expect those numbers to grow in the years ahead.”

Two operators, the Dubai-based OSN and beIN Sports Arabia (formerly Al Jazeera Sports), have formed a “virtual duopoly” in the regional pay-TV market, the report noted. Between the last three months of 2012 and end of 2013, OSN’s subscriber base increased by 32.3 percent, IHS said.

The overall pay-TV market grew by 14.13 percent in terms of subscriber numbers in 2013, IHS said. There were just 1.33 million households paying to receive such services in 2004, it noted.

“The Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain) account for two out of three pay-TV households (or 66 percent of the total),” IHS said in a statement. “There are huge disparities in the uptake of pay-TV services across the region where UAE has the highest penetration rate at 85 percent and Egypt the lowest with just 2.4 percent.”

Despite the growth in pay-TV in the region, free-to-air satellite television stations still attract the majority of TV viewers. Such channels generally derive their income from advertising or are government-funded.