My-HD Media, the Dubai-based pay TV satellite operator, is to start 2016 with the launch of two new packages. In a press conference in Dubai, Mr Samir Safer, My-HD Media’s CEO, announced that the company will launch the My-Asia package by mid-January 2016. The new package will be simultaneously launched in 22 MENA countries. Furthermore, My-HD Media will launch another package, the Maghreb package, later in the year, to be made available in four North African countries (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia).
The My-Asia package will offer content from prominent Indian broadcasters like Zee TV, Star TV, IndiaCast and Raj TV, among others. The package will comprise a set of around 85 ethnic channels broadcasting in eight different languages. The content on offer will primarily consist of Bollywood movies, general entertainment, news and music. In addition to this, My-Asia will include international channels like Discovery Science, Animal Planet and Travel.
The Maghreb package will offer a total of 75 channels, of which 46 will be available in HD. The package will also include 13 French-language channels. The expanded HD offering following the Maghreb package launch will position My-HD Media as the second largest HD channel provider in the MENA region after OSN, which offers a total of 52 HD channels on its highest tier.
The launch of the two packages shows a change in direction in My-HD Media's business strategy, with the primary focus on overhauling its pay TV proposition. The past two years have proved difficult for My-HD Media, with July 2015 seeing shareholders removing the company's first CEO Cliff Nelson and appointing Samir Safer as a replacement. According to forecasts from IHS Television Media Intelligence, My-HD Media will close 2015 with 89,000 subscribers using the service on primary TV sets. In total, IHS estimates that around 260,000 households will have access to My-HD Media at the end of 2015. However, the majority of these households already possess a primary subscription to other major satellite or IPTV players' services. My-HD Media's subscriber figures are in contrast to the expectations of the company's former CEO, who had publicly stated a target of around half a million customers by mid-2015.
My-HD Media has blamed two factors for its low subscriber growth: piracy and churn. Piracy is without a doubt rampant in the Middle East and is inflicting a heavy blow on its pay TV market. This has resulted in major pay TV and free-to-air (FTA) operators such as the broadcaster MBC and the pay TV operator OSN calling for increased regulatory focus on curbing the threat of piracy. The reasons for My-HD Media's subscriber churn partially relate to the operator's content offering, which until now was focused on a low-cost HD offer, as opposed to targeting specific demographics or ethnic groups. This business strategy has parallels with the SES-backed satellite operator HD+ in Germany, which similarly offers low-tier pay services. However, whilst the FTA HD content offer in Germany is small, which played a crucial role in driving high subscriber uptake for HD+, in the Middle East it is the opposite case. A TV household possessing a 60cm satellite dish in the UAE, Qatar or Saudi Arabia can currently access over 120 FTA HD channels.
Another setback for My-HD Media is the fact that its service is not offered in Egypt, the largest television market in the region. Pay TV penetration in Egypt is less than 3% at the end of 2015 according to IHS, which thus provides a window of opportunity for My-HD Media to boost its subscriber base. My-HD Media is also the only pay TV operator in the MENA region not offering online streaming of its content or even a catch-up service. This is a hindrance for an operator trying to lure a younger demographic group.
The launch of My-HD Media's new packages is a positive step for the operator in remedying its situation and focusing its efforts on further growth. More than 2.4 million South Asians reside in the Gulf States, forming thus a sizeable potential clientele for My-HD Media. Furthermore, the legal offering of Indian content at a low cost can reduce the threat of piracy. Targeting the Maghreb countries on the other side of the region, well-known for their preference for French-language content, is a well-calculated move that could potentially raise the stakes for My-HD Media. Pay TV penetration in these countries is rather low and even established premium pay TV operators such as OSN have had difficulties establishing a presence in these markets. The French-language content acquired by My-HD Media, however, should help the operator bolster its subscriber figures and revenues.