Market overviews 2015 — Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa region had around 54 million TV households at the end of 2014 as more than 96% of total households do possess at least one TV set.

95%TV households in MENA watch digital TV.  

At the end of 2014, 89% of TV households primarily use satellite TV. Of the 48 million satellite households, 44.3 million watch FTA TV with 3.7 million pay TV subscribers. The free satellite platform was introduced to the TV viewers in the region in the early 1990s and has proven to be extremely resilient. High penetration of free satellite has also assisted the uptake of paid satellite.

Cable used to be widespread especially in the UAE and Qatar, but has transitioned to IPTV. Cable TV infrastructure is available in countries Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. Most of the cable TV networks in these geographies are illegally re-broadcasting the TV programmes of the pay satellite operators.

The analogue to digital transition of terrestrial TV is experiencing a mixed fortune. In the UAE and Bahrain the digital switchover is advanced, some Emirates have already shut off analogue transmissions, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman will also shut off analogue terrestrial TV at the end of 2015. In Algeria almost exclusively uses the VHF band for terrestrial broadcasting, where the deadline is June 2020.

The Algerian government is evaluating the possibility of advancing the switchover date to 2018 but no official date has been fixed. Similarly in Tunisia, where around 80% of the analogue terrestrial frequencies are in the VHF Band, an extension to 2018 is under discussion.

From the early 1990s the satellite TV households have started to expand in Middle East and North Africa and by 2014 the overall primary satellite penetration is 89%. The penetration in countries like the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Morocco is much lower due to the existence of IPTV networks (in Morocco also the terrestrial platform has considerable strength). The strength of the satellite platform is further underlined by the plethora of channels that it carries, the vast majority of them FTA: At the end of 2014 more than 970 FTA channels are available across the region. The two largest pay TV operators in the region, Qatari-based beIN Sports Arabia and UAE-based OSN, are satellite operators. Satellite penetration has reached its peak in the region. In the UAE and Qatar, there are restrictions on the number of satellite dishes per building. Saudi Arabia is planning to introduce similar legislation. Furthermore, the high level of investment in telecoms infrastructure is likely to lead to a migration to IPTV.

IPTV is offered in seven MENA countries while in only four of them (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Morocco) IPTV subscribers exceed 3,000. UAE is the only country where two IPTV operators are active but they operate in different regions.

Pay TV penetration in the Gulf States is much higher than in the rest of the Arab States. The reasons justifying this trend are the numerous:

  • Households in Gulf States have a high disposable income.
  • Gulf States have invested heavily in telecoms infrastructure which facilitates the expansion of pay TV networks.
  • In Gulf States such as Kuwait, the local population constitutes just a fragment of the total population of the country for whom pay TV is the best solution for foreign entertainment.


Egypt Key facts – 2014

  • Population: 86.8 million
  • Households: 20.2 million
  • TV Households: 19.8 million
  • Pay TV Penetration: 2.5%
  • Broadband Penetration: 15%
  • Mobile Penetration: 110%

TV Ad Revenue: €122 million


Egypt — platform overview 2014
  Pay subs (‘000) Free subs (‘000) Platform digitization (%)
Terrestrial 0 1,017 65
Satellite 497 18,288 100
Cable 0 0 0
IPTV 0 0 100
Total 497 19,305 3

The public service broadcaster in Egypt, the Egyptian Radio & Television Union (ERTU), is the only broadcaster in the country licenced to broadcast on the terrestrial platform. ERTU operates 17 channels. Other broadcasters are only licensed to use the satellite and IPTV platforms. Four major commercial TV networks shape the FTA market: Al Nahar TV Network, Al Hayatt TV Network, CBC TV Network and Dream TV Network. Another significant FTA broadcaster in Egypt is the Saudi-based MBC Group with the channel MBC Masr (Egypt in Arabic).

Pay TV penetration is very low in Egypt at 2.5% of TV households, because the strong FTA offer. This has ensured that the Egyptian TV landscape is dominated by free satellite, which has been entirely digital since the end of 2012 The two largest pay TV operators in the country are beIN Sports Arabia  and OSN.

Digitisation of the terrestrial platform in Egypt has been delayed due to a lack of funding as well as governmental indecision over its transition strategy. Analogue terrestrial currently accounts for just under 2% of TV households in Egypt.  

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Saudi Arabia Key facts – 2014

  • Population: 29.9 million
  • Households: 5.4 million
  • TV Households: 5.0 million
  • Pay TV Penetration: 28%
  • Broadband Penetration: 63%
  • Mobile Penetration: 166%

TV Ad Revenue: €766 million


Saudi Arabia — platform overview 2014
  Pay subs (‘000) Free subs (‘000) Platform digitization (%)
Terrestrial 0 190 100
Satellite 1,219 3,429 98
Cable 0 0 0
IPTV 164 0 100
Total 1,383 3,619 4

The Ministry of Culture and Information of Saudi Arabia operates the state-owned broadcasting services of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. More than 12 FTA channels are state-owned, including seven sports channels, one cultural channel, a channel covering religion and another one focusing on news and current affairs. The most popular FTA broadcaster in Saudi Arabia is MBC with its flagship general entertainment channel MBC1 and movie channel MBC2. Other popular channels are Rotana Cinema and the news channel Al Arabiya.

28% of Saudi Arabian TV households subscribe to a pay TV service. The two largest pay TV operators in Saudi Arabia are two Pan-Arab operators beIN Sports and Arabia OSN. Pay TV services in Saudi Arabia are primarily available over satellite. Saudi Telecom resells the pay TV packages of beIN Sports Arabia and OSN on its IPTV platform.

Digitisation of the terrestrial platform is due to complete in 2015, with the vast bulk of analogue terrestrial homes already converted.  

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Morocco Key facts – 2014

  • Population: 33.3 million
  • Households: 6.7 million
  • TV Households: 6.2 million
  • Pay TV Penetration: 4%
  • Broadband Penetration: 15%
  • Mobile Penetration: 132%

TV Ad Revenue: €32 million


Morocco — platform overview 2014
  Pay subs (‘000) Free subs (‘000) Platform digitization (%)
Terrestrial 0 1,893 36
Satellite 198 4,094 100
Cable 0 0 0
IPTV 54 0 100
Total 251 5,987 11

The public service broadcaster in Morocco, Societe Nationale de Radio et Television (SNRT), operates six channels, available in both analogue and digital via terrestrial and satellite platforms, as well as via IPTV. SNRT offers national and local channels, as well as thematic channels (covering sports, religion, education and news). Morocco and Tunisia are currently the only two Arab countries which have licenced commercial channels to operate on the terrestrial platform. Medi 1 is the largest commercial terrestrial operator.

Morocco is largely a free to air TV market, with 4% pay TV penetration. Pay TV in Morocco is available over IPTV and satellite. The two largest pay TV operators in Morocco are satellite broadcasters beIN Sports Arabia and OSN.

Morocco has a higher terrestrial TV usage rate than its regional peers, with 25% of Moroccan households using terrestrial as their primary TV source. In Morocco the government liberalized the licensing of terrestrial TV channels in 2002. The commercial channels that were launched by the mid-2000s have proven to be popular, which has contributed to the popularity of the terrestrial platform.

The terrestrial platform remains largely analogue. The digital transition is being held back through lack of government funding. Morocco is unlikely to meet the June 2015 deadline for shutting off the analogue terrestrial signal.

The country’s telecom operator, Maroc Telecom, offers an IPTV service which had managed to attract 54,000 subscribers in 2014.



Kuwait Key facts – 2014

  • Population: 3.0 million
  • Households: 0.4 million
  • TV Households: 0.4 million
  • TV Penetration: 99%
  • Pay TV Penetration: 73%
  • Broadband Penetration: 33%
  • Mobile Penetration: 215%

TV Ad Revenue: €333 million


Kuwait — platform overview 2014
  Pay subs (‘000) Free subs (‘000) Platform digitization (%)
Terrestrial 0 16 84
Satellite 263 80 100
Cable 0 0 0
IPTV 0 0 100
Total 263 96 4

The state broadcaster of Kuwait is Kuwait Television, which is funded and supervised by the Ministry of Information. Kuwait Television operates five channels, of which the flagship channel is general entertainment station KTV1. Three of Kuwait Television’s channels are thematic (sports, religion and cultural) while KTV2, broadcasts general entertainment. The most popular broadcaster in Kuwait is MBC which broadcasts MBC1, MBC2 and MBC Action. Other popular broadcasters include Rotana and Arabic channels such as the Lebanese LBC International and the Egyptian Al Nahar.

The television landscape of the country shares similar characteristics with that of the other Gulf States. Kuwait has a high penetration rate of TV sets, with 99% of households owning a TV. Kuwait is largely a pay TV market, with 73% of TV homes subscribing to a pay TV service. 96% of Kuwaiti households use either free or paid satellite as their primary means of TV consumption. OSN and beIN Sports Arabia are the two top pay TV operators in Kuwait, both of which provide their services exclusively over satellite. The transition to DTT is due to be complete in the first half of 2015. There are no cable or IPTV networks in Kuwait.

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