It is an exciting time for streaming in the MENA region and, as we head into CABSAT, the industry here is as dynamic and as constantly changing as ever.
A decade ago, there were only seven streaming services in the Middle East and North Africa. Data now reveals that there are currently more than 50, while only five of which can be considered to be the main global companies (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ et cetera). This highlights one of the unique features of our region; the prominent market opportunity for local players. In fact, the top five streaming apps in the Middle East include only two global giants.
So, what are our customers talking to us about and what are their main concerns and hopes as 2023 unfolds?
Top of the list is definitely FAST — Free Ad Supported Television — which has undoubtedly been one of the success stories of the post-pandemic streaming era. With the success of FAST already reshaping the media landscape in the influential US market, operators in this region are now eager to launch their own FAST services as well.
This aims to capture new viewers and niche markets while also mitigating churn and providing further options and business models (including tiered services) to serve established audiences. FAST channels also have the benefit of much lower content costs, as many of the programs shown on them feature long-tail archive footage.
Of course, one of the keys to ensuring successful FAST services is to make sure that the ‘A’ component of the acronym, advertising, is as efficient and successful as it can be. In 2023, that means using targeted TV advertising, which provides the ability to segment your audience (often by using AI) to analyse first party data. This offers advertisers routes to precisely the customers they want to target, both on a regional and a local level.
More and more money is pivoting towards digital advertising, partly due to the elimination of third-party cookies in the web-based Internet, so its marriage of new AdTech and the traditional reach of television has proved to be a compelling formula for advertisers. It also enables broadcasters and operators to maximise their inventory; making sure that the inventory is monetized to the maximum extent.
With research indicating that targeted advertising is perceived by viewers as less intrusive than the traditional approach, the lower ad loads afforded by FAST further contributes to boosting viewer satisfaction.
It’s not often that such a win-win-win technology appears in the industry, and so interest is understandably high and helping drive not just the rise of FAST channels but also an increasing conversion of SVOD services to AVOD, as audiences struggle to maintain access to a wealth of content while reducing subscription costs.
Elsewhere, another key topic revolves around piracy and the continued efforts in the industry to prevent it from leeching revenues away from legitimate streaming services. It is a constant battle, and an ever changing one as well. The majority of content piracy we see nowadays is hosted on live illegal streaming websites, which necessitates a very different approach from the days of bit-torrent and illegal downloading.
Anti-piracy efforts in 2023 need to be seen as a framework. There is no single solution that anyone can point to and say, ‘this is 100% effective’, rather media organisations need to bring a variety of tools and techniques to bear on the situation to provide a truly end-to-end service that can address everything from everyday credentials sharing to new, sophisticated forms of piracy such as CDN Leeching.
In some areas it means techniques such as dynamic watermarking that can detect where a breach has occurred, in others we need to be using AI to detect suspicious patterns of behaviour, in yet others we need to be working with the authorities to try and swiftly take down illegal streams as we keep evolving our approach and technology to fight the new reality of global threats.
At Viaccess-Orca, we are thrilled to be returning to CABSAT 2023 after achieving important milestones with key customers, including a reduction of latency down to only three seconds during live events. This year, we will be showcasing our E2E data-driven suite for delivery, security, and monetization of video content. We will also be presenting a non-invasive framework of microservice components that can be adopted individually or together to improve the operation of video platforms without disrupting existing workflows.
VO’s tailored solutions are designed to adapt to the ever-evolving TV and OTT landscape, providing viewers with a personalized and engaging environment where they can seamlessly watch their favorite content on each and every screen.
By Sammer Elia
Business Development Director, MENA