In an exclusive interview with BroadcastPro ME, Dr. Raed Khusheim, CEO of Selevision, speaks about the current media landscape in the MENA region and how new technology and ideas are transforming it What is your view of the MENA TV industry, and what does Selevision bring to the region? We have thousands of channels in the […]
In an exclusive interview with BroadcastPro ME, Dr. Raed Khusheim, CEO of Selevision, speaks about the current media landscape in the MENA region and how new technology and ideas are transforming it
What is your view of the MENA TV industry, and what does Selevision bring to the region?
We have thousands of channels in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), but only a handful of quality ones. In this region, we have one of the lowest ratios of SD to HD television channels, which needs to change. Technology is a great enabler of change and it is incumbent on players like us to bring about this change. There is a lot of potential in this region waiting to be explored.
Selevision has built a robust subscriber base since we launched our entertainment services in 2014 and the outlook for the coming years is bright. By the end of this year, we expect the number of our subscribers to reach one million.
We have also secured agreements with major Hollywood content owners, developers and distributors such as Disney Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures, NBC Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Turner International. The key broadcasters in the region, such as MBC and Rotana, have also partnered with us. We have recently introduced the HbbTV service for the first time in the MENA region in partnership with Arabsat.
How has Selevision evolved in the past two years?
We have moved away from being just a set-top unit manufacturer. Selevision has reinvented itself as an entertainment service provider. Our entertainment services will be available on different set-top units such as Humax, Altech AUC and any other unit that is able to receive our content.
We are growing strong on the over-the-top (OTT) level, thanks to our partnerships with content delivery networks (CDNs) to provide an uninterrupted user experience. We recently signed up with du to use its services hosted at Datamena. Dus broadcasting services division will provide CDN services from Akamai as well as IP transit service to Selevision, thereby ensuring consistent quality of experience for our subscribers in the region.
What is the role of technology in shaping the media landscape in the region? There are a lot of discussions centred on HEVC do we really need it? How will it change the TV industry?
HEVC, as we all know, is a compression standard. In order to deliver larger media files, compression is a must. As content moves towards higher definitions, with talks around 4K or even 8K becoming more commonplace, service providers need to find ways to deliver the content in pristine quality to the end users. HEVC gives us that power.
We believe HEVC can revolutionise the way media is viewed in the region. By introducing HEVC compression for HD, we can deliver HD quality at half the price of SD and give the audience a better viewing experience.
HEVC enables satellite companies to add many more channels for the same capacity, thereby increasing their reach. Delivery of OTT can also improve with HEVC as it can cut the size and bandwidth dramatically, which is a boon for areas that dont have good broadband, which is the case in many MENA countries.
At Selevision, we are developing our own algorithm to compress to H.265. A file whose original size is 280MB reduces to 36MB using HEVC, and I reiterate that the reception is not compromised. I wont recommend it for live sport, but it works perfectly well for films and TV programmes.
Better compression will drop the cost of streaming from the consumer perspective and cut down on broadband usage. For instance, one can watch HD channels with just 4MB if the files use HEVC standard. This standard has immense unlocked potential and will lead to new business models and more cost efficiency in the future.
How do you see set-top boxes evolving in the future? With connected devices and internet so widespread, does that augur the end of the set-top box?
Recent reports have reaffirmed that linear TV is still going strong, which means set-top boxes are not going anywhere. In Saudi Arabia, a new regulation will enforce pay-TV operators to make their service available on multiple set-top boxes, thereby moving away from proprietary boxes. This will enable viewers to watch content from several pay-TV operators without having to stack up too many boxes.
The content will be available through virtual keys and viewers will have the option to pay per view.
Its similar to watching the same channels on different TV sets or using the same mobile handset for different services.
With OTT going strong, what is the future of satellite TV, given that satellite is so strong in the region.
Satellite is still going strong in the MENA region and the way forward is to bring the two together by bridging satellite and OTT for value-added services.
We have introduced social TV integration in our HbbTV service to make it interactive. Content owners are enabling users to interact with other users on the same platform.
The Selevision app is going to be launched in a few weeks. At launch, the service will offer a core programming package with video-on-demand entertainment, live, restart and catch-up TV. The service will require no commitment, contract, credit check or hardware installation.
Consumers will be able to tailor their experience with add-on packs for access to additional programming and features on their devices at home and on-the-go. Anywhere a wired, Wi-Fi or mobile broadband connection is available, the service will be delivered over supported internet-connected devices including select smart TVs, iOS, Android, Mac and PC.
What will Selevision’s HbbTV service offer?
We have recently announced our strategic partnership with Arabsat, bringing the Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) service to the MENA region. The service will finally be accessible on major broadcasting channels in the region, starting February 2015, to viewers on all HbbTV compatible set-top boxes in the market.
The service will be complemented by Selevisions OTT platform and content library to provide a different viewer experience for the 26 degree Arabsat hotspot. Broadcasters will have access to different standardised applications in addition to the wide possibilities of customised applications, through HbbTV.
Having established a foothold in the Saudi market, are you reaching out to other territories now?
We have been strong in Saudi Arabia for the last 15 years, being a wholly owned operating subsidiary of Khusheim Holdings. The natural progression is to reach out to other territories starting with the GCC, especially in the UAE, where our new development and sales offices are located, then across the MENA.
Are you also looking at original production?
Production is not our focus area right now. However, we support original ideas and will extend equipment support to up-and-coming filmmakers. We want to encourage Arabic production and will offer production and post-production support for young filmmakers. If someone wants to make short films and put them up on YouTube or create a channel for themselves, we can help them do that.
We take it as our obligation to encourage local and regional production. We are looking at interactive, youth-oriented projects that are made by youngsters for youngsters. These initiatives are major influencers in society and have the potential to bring about change. These kinds of shows are useful and entertaining as they give the audience what it wants. U-TURN is one such Saudi initiative that has been hugely successful; wed like to see more such success stories and extend our help to them.