The subject of content and how broadcasters can monetise it has been a hot topic in the past month. At the tail end of January, DISCOP Dubai brought together content producers, distributors and broadcasters to discuss the challenges around content, and a number of announcements throughout February also served as a reminder of the importance of content and how it should be monetised.
Content is the biggest cost outlay for broadcasters, after all, it's there stock in trade. But with free-to-air advertising revenues on a depressing downward trajectory and the general population seemingly reluctant to dip their hands very deep into their pockets for Pay-TV services, broadcasters across the spectrum are faced with quite a conundrum. In the Pay-TV space we saw OSN relaunch its packages with a lower entry cost and greater flexibility, with customers being able to assemble their own tailored packages.
To illustrate the population's expectation of every cheaper content, iflix rolled into town in the form of a joint venture with Kuwaiti telecom operator Zain Group.
It will soon be possible for an avid millennial cord-cutter to subscribe to four or five streaming services and still spend less than they would on a basic Pay-TV subscription. While I firmly believe that linear TV will retain its dominance for some time to come, companies such as OSN are right to take a hard look at their offerings and take action to shore up their positions and try to attract new subscribers.
Last month I was fortunate to meet Turki Al Shabanah, CEO of Rotana TV Networks, and it was fascinating to there his insights. As a private company Rotana has a sharp commercial focus and a clear understanding of the value of content, which explains why it has invested so much in reporting hundreds of classic Arabic films dating back decades. Which brings me to my last point: when a broadcaster invests in content to air on FTA platforms, it is essential that they can over any period, recoup their investment through advertising dollars. Unfortunately, the Middle East continues to be held back by a lack of genuine audience measurement, and as you will see from the news report on pages 22-23, the situation just got worse after tview, the UAE's audience measurement system, closed in late November 2016.
Accurate audience measurement using people meters is standard practice in almost all developed countries around the world, and the absence of such a system in the Middle East means that advertisers have little understanding of the value of their advertising investment, which increases confidence and generally leads to a rise in ad spending.
Let's hope that Saudi Arabia is able to get its much discussed audience measurement system up and running to bring greater clarity to the market. This could help boost FTA revenues, providing more funds to content production and broadcast upgrades.