Live from IBC’s Content Everywhere MENA: UAE Entities take centre stage

The afternoon theatre session at IBC’s Content Everywhere featured leading execs from some of MENA’s largest TV organisations talking about a future where the debate over old media vs. new media becomes a thing of the past. “Content everywhere is not a question anymore, it is a must,” said Abdul Hadi Al Sheikh, executive director of television, Abu Dhabi Media. “In the last few years it has become a normal behavior and practice for every user and viewer.”

Abu Dhabi has an audience of more than 12 million people and Al Sheikh said that the social media push allows the service to become a 360-degree part of the community, covering it from all angles and at all times.

“It increases engagement and expands our reach and interaction with the consumer,” he explained. “And for us an important and key factor is to focus on content.”

Khalifa Al Shamsi, Etisalat, chief digital services officer, says that IPTV penetration in the UAE is 50%, a percentage that most likely eclipses all other countries where traditional cable and satellite (or broadcast) still dominate.

“The main aim is not to compete with our broadcast partners but to offer a platform bundled with different services like a smart-home solution,” said Al Shamsi.

David Butorac, CEO of UAE pay TV operator OSN, said a hybrid mix of delivery that involves at least some satellite, which is more efficient in terms of delivering broadcast signals, and IPTV, that allows for narrowcasting will always exist.

One thing he hopes will not always exist is priacy, an issue that continues to be a significant issue for broadcasters throughout MENA. Dealing with things like BitTorrent is one thing but other companies, like You Tube, should do more to protect copy right holders.

“They can block pornography and they should be able to block Hollywood movies,” he said. “Intellectual property owners want them to take action and they are slowly waking to the damage. But it is pie-in-the-sky to think that someone will spend $120 million to produce a show and not get a return on the investment.”

Al Shamsi adds that part of the solution to piracy is educating consumers about the negative effects of piracy.

“The industry needs to educate the end user that piracy is not legal,” he says. “People are hungry for content and they will make it available their own way.”

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