Dubai-based satellite TV operator My-HD Media is launching a low-cost HD package in the MENA region at the end of May. The package comprises 25 HD channels, including eight supplied by MBC. My-HD Media has inked deals with set-top manufacturers Humax (its first deal in the region), Dansat, Truview and Galaxis. The HD channels will be offered free for the first year to anyone buying these receivers. The cost of the receivers varies between 350 and 650 UAE dirhams (€75 to €150). After the first 12 months, customers will have to pay a standard fee of 199 UAE dirhams (€42). Packages of Filipino channels will be available for an additional monthly fee of 89 UAE dirhams per month (€19).
My-HD Media soft launched on 11 July last year and added the Filipino channel package on 1 May. The official launch of the My-HD Media low-cost package will take place in Dubai on 30 May.
The MENA market is characterised by a comparatively high HD channel offer as well as by the absence of a clear monetisation strategy from the operators. According to IHS MENA Intelligence Service data, at the end of April, 109 HD channels were available in the region, targeting viewers in the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. Viewers in Egypt, the rest of North Africa and countries like Jordan or Lebanon have access to slightly fewer HD channels - around 98. Almost half of these HD channels, 53 out of the 109 according to IHS MI, are offered free of charge and the majority are owned by government-backed broadcasters. The absence of a monetisation strategy is evident from the fact that all major pay TV satellite operators are providing HD channels even on their basic packages. Al Jazeera Sports and Abu Dhabi Media offer HD channels on all their packages and OSN, the operator which offers the largest number of packages (eight), has HD channels in all but its most basic package.
My-HD Media is implementing a strategy to that of Germany operator HDplus - offering set-tops with one-year free access to HD channels. The operator's intention is to enlarge and enrich its content offer by signing similar deals with other major FTA or even pay TV operators in the MENA region. In that framework My-HD Media is in the process of expanding the range of manufacturers with which it partners forging agreements with Altech UEC and even Linux. The company has not disclosed any subscriber figures on the basis that it it still in a soft launch phase so as just to test the waters.
My-HD Media will face strong competition from Yahlive, which currently offers around 50 HD free channels. Neither operator has a significant sports package, so they are unlikely to appeal to Al Jazeera Sports and Abu Dhabi Media subscribers. They do not target the high income, mostly Western expat clientele of OSN. My-HD Media wants to provide family-oriented general entertainment aimed at the Arab-speaking population in these countries.
A successful launch of My-HD Media's low-cost package will have positive side-effects for two groups of players in the MENA TV industry and market: the free-to-air channel owners and satellite capacity providers. Of the former, the most prominent is MBC, which will benefit from the opportunity to generate a revenue source by moving into a low-pay proposition, will have the ability to monitor how many HD set-top boxes are delivering their channels and how many households are receiving them and will find distribution partners that will help the take-up of their HD channels. MBC has streamlined all its efforts for the adoption of a similar strategy since 2011 with the failed attempt of the Technosat ICHD Network that was supposed to reach around 10m households carrying the MBC HD channels in an encrypted form to be offered at a low subscription fee. Now, MBC has inked a similar deal with Yahlive and it is offering its HD channels through most satellite pay and IPTV platforms in the region.
For the satellite capacity providers like Nilesat (which carried the MBC HD channels) and Arabsat (which signed a deal with My-HD Media for the expansion of the latter pay TV proposition to more than 80 countries in Africa and the Middle East) a successful launch of My-HD Media will enhance the attractiveness of the satellite platform as the only one offering a mass-market ready, most cost-effective and end-to-end distribution platform to the broadcasters wishing to offer HD services. It seems a win-win solution; low pay TV operators seem to offer the most integrated growth potential for satellite capacity providers.