In an interview with BroadcastPro ME, Yahlives CEO Sami Boustany outlines the companys new business strategy and how focusing on a Farsi-speaking audience signals new growth opportunities The recent IPSOS research has shown that Yahlive reaches over 25 million Farsi speakers in the region. What does this mean for Yahlive? IPSOS research is special for […]
In an interview with BroadcastPro ME, Yahlives CEO Sami Boustany outlines the companys new business strategy and how focusing on a Farsi-speaking audience signals new growth opportunities
The recent IPSOS research has shown that Yahlive reaches over 25 million Farsi speakers in the region. What does this mean for Yahlive?
IPSOS research is special for us and goes to show our focus on this audience has paid off. We have been focusing on the Farsi-speaking community in the Arab region as well as Iran and Afghanistan, and these numbers show our growth and level of engagement. IPSOS is a trusted organisation; our advertisers also trust this research.
There is a 130 million strong Farsi-speaking population in the region with a large diaspora in the UAE as well. This offers a massive opportunity for us. Our strategy to engage with the Farsi-speaking audience has been one of the reasons why we were able to attract broadcasters from Afghanistan. That, by itself, is an indication that we are on the right path.
Our strategy was to create a new market. There were several channels addressing this market but they were operating as islands. We have consolidated all of them under one umbrella and this has worked in our favour.
How has this strategy improved your revenue?
Its been a quantum leap for us as we jumped from 2000 eyeballs to 25 million in just a year-and-a-half. Rather than competing for the same content, we focused on a different segment and created a new market, which reaped good results for us. The main factors influencing this are understanding the demand of the broadcasters and choosing the right content. The IPSOS results will further boost the confidence of broadcasters, who have decided to come on board with us.
Previously, your strategy was to have only Arabic content in HD. Has that strategy changed over time?
When we launched, we began with Arabic as the key focus area because we operate in the UAE but we needed to expand our offering. Likewise, HD was a key differentiator in the initial years but not anymore. Even today, not enough content is available in native HD. Our own internal research shows us that only about 10-20% of content is in native HD in the region. Its a simple calculation based on the number of HD channels available today. Upscaling gives you good quality but it is not native HD.
We, therefore, reviewed our strategy and began to move our focus to languages as the key differentiator. We looked for high-demand areas and found Farsi language content as a good focus area. We offer a good blend of content focused on Farsi, and now we have included Kurdish and Afghan languages into that mix.
Of course, Arabic continues to be there because it is the language which most of our viewers speak and understand. At least 10-11 million Farsi speakers also speak Arabic, and more than 60% of the entire community is bilingual. There is a large percentage of Farsi speakers that also speak English, French and German. Most of our viewers speak multiple languages so we have a lot of traction among western broadcasters as well. We are trying to achieve a good blend of language-specific content tailored to the needs of a bilingual community.
It would be accurate to say that we have Arabic content that is now complemented with other niche languages as well. We have drastically altered our business strategy to include other languages. Our primary audience now includes Farsi speakers and as I said, there is a big focus on Kurdish language content as well. This shift was done with the idea of creating new markets. We still have the MBC channels, because our Farsi-speaking audience wants MBC and Fox. We also get a lot of requests for Dubai TV so that is part of our offering now.
What is your biggest challenge at the moment?
It is difficult to convince broadcasters to move into a new environment. We offer a more efficient transmission system but its often a challenge to bring more broadcasters on board.
30% of our channels are in HD. We understand why there is a reluctance, at times, to move from DVB-S to MPEG-4 or newer formats. There is not enough critical mass of receivers to justify the move. Most of the receivers in our key markets are legacy technology. We are encouraging our customers to adopt more efficient codecs, which is a cost saving for them as it saves them bandwidth and will also ease their transition to HD. It is a long-term investment for us. Once our broadcasters begin transmitting in HD, they will require more capacity from us so we are encouraging this move.
One of our targets last year was to move our customers from DVBS to MPEG4. We made that investment and provided the uplink facilities. All of our uplink facilities are geared to transmit in HD. Our customers just needed to drop their signals on to us and we uplinked them; its more efficient for them because they need less bandwidth. This is taking longer than expected because the end user boxes are not yet ready for it. Being free-to-air, we have millions of viewers, so a box swap is not a viable commercial solution.
Can you share any growth figures?
This year alone, we have grown our channels by 40%. On a two-year basis, we had a growth of 140%. On a monthly basis, we add an average of three to four channels. This year, we hope to see a quantum leap and expect a breakthrough in the market.