After a tough couple of years for the region’s broadcast industry, seasoned executives from the sector see some signs of improvement in the coming 12 months.
Mainstream broadcasters have continued to grapple with an ongoing shift away from linear viewing combined with declining advertising revenues, while content producers have struggled amid ferocious competition and dwindling budgets from clients, who seemingly want more for less. Amid this climate Digital Broadcast spoke a number of industry insiders to get a comprehensive view of where the industry is at.
For Darren Frearson, vice president of sales, EMEA and APAC, GatesAir, the main challenges in the region have been a combination of instability in the political arena and the drop in the oil price, which affected the decision making process and has pushed a number of large projects out further into the future.
Frearson also sees signs of recovery in the region. “We are seeing somewhat of a recovery from the financial crash we saw in the Middle East over recent times due to the reduced oil prices. Business is still not back to ‘normal’, however we are seeing positive moves and adjustments in government budgets,’ he said. “We have started seeing positive moves in the last six months, and expect more positive outcomes in the coming year.”
While the recent trend in the region in general has been for projects to be pushed back, the opposite now appears to be the case in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Clients in these countries have, according to Frearson, been “noticeably active” with large projects being awarded. This gives much reason for optimism, given that these two countries are big indicators of the activity in the region.
Meanwhile, Pooyan Farnam, sales and technical support at Advanced Media, a Dubai-based supplier of broadcast and production technology, said that business has been notably tougher for the distributor over the past year, mainly due to price pressure on production equipment. Despite this, Advanced Media sees a few sweet spots including opportunities to capture more of the 4K market. Indeed, with more people now using 4K and HD, from high-end to consumers, Advanced Media sees opportunities opening up to supply more 4K products to high end broadcasters, rental and production houses, individual filmmakers and even pro-sumers.
While 4K is picking up, Farnam points out that there is still demand in some countries for HD channels, and he expects to see a reasonable level of business for HD playout, studio chains, production and editing work continue.
He also expects to see some degree of uptick in the systems integration market. “After a slow down we expect the business to pick up again. More TV set up projects from our region and Africa, new demand for high end digital cinema cameras and lenses and more sales and distribution of video/photo accessories,” Farnam said.
Mig Cardamone, director of sales and marketing at Sennheiser Middle East, also offers a more upbeat appraisal of the market. Indeed, while most industry insiders see few signs of recovery this year, Cardamone believes 2017 so far has been better than 2016, in terms of confidence at least. “While 2016 was characterised by economic uncertainty, confidence has returned to the market and 2017 is shaping up to be a good year for business. At Sennheiser, we have witnessed 20% year-on-year (YoY) growth of our business-to-business (B2B) and pro-sumer segments.”
Cardamone is also clear on the main challenges his company faces. “One of the challenges is the inability to create reliable forecasts as business is often impacted by unforeseen political and economic factors. From our years of experience in the Middle East market, an important learning has been that even in challenging times, businesses must continue to invest in the region to ensure local relevance and to build trust and confidence with your customers,” Cardamone said.