Home > Uncategorized > Is broadcast media in the Middle East doomed?

Is broadcast media in the Middle East doomed?

Every time I attend MIPTV or MIPCOM, I am enthused by the dynamic nature of our industry around the world. Every “constant” is changing at the same time: audience behaviour, business models, media consumption habits, viewing technology. This is a time of great disruption but great opportunity and is very exciting.

Then I return to the Middle East, and it feels like we are dinosaurs happily going about our daily grazing while oblivious of the approaching asteroid. We are still debating twentieth century concepts while the world has surged past us. We don’t have a real understanding of our audience due to a lack of the most basic measurement tools. Our business model is broken and means no media company would exist today if it hadn’t been supported by a government or a wealthy individual. We have a huge mobile base, yet all we seem to do with it is generate tons of profits for telcos from good old voice and sms sending. Satellites are a boon to cheap distribution but at the same time dilute the boundaries of individual cultures and oversimplify content development. Producers are too busy sticking to the tried and tested 30 episode Ramadan cash cow. The web and mobile are still seen as “novelties” while other markets have placed them at the heart of their business strategies. We are losing the connection to the vast majority of our young population as their attention fragments either to politics (where else do news channels feature so prominently in the viewer psyche?), corners of the web or chatting to break away from their daily monotony. There is innovation, but in pockets not proportional in size to the population numbers and unsupported by a healthy eco-system of financial backers or business support systems.

How to change this before it is too late?

  1. Maya
    May 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Hello Karim,
    Well put. I agree with Mo re- the original content. I also think that, as a new breed of managers such as yourself are entering the regional media arena, the industry will get healthier. Also, the market entry of international players such as Newscorp will sanitize the industry even more. Or so I hope!

    • May 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm

      Hello Maya,

      Pressure from international players, whether on the broadcast side or on the media buying side, can definitely improve the current media environment.


  2. Mo Youssouf
    May 2, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Hi Karim,

    I totally agree with what you have written. To answer your question “how to change this before its too late?”, the answer is by creating original content. Content in the arab world is the only thing we recycle. Its the same old story over and over again. What we need are fresh concepts and stories from new writers made by courageous producers told by exciting and edgy directors.

    Original content is the key. All you have to do is capture the audience. If your content can do that, then advertisers will pay a premium to send their messages through your shows. Oh and i dont mean presenter-based shows. I mean character-driven stories with archs, plots, sub-plots, action, drama, laughter, intelligence, thought-provoking themes, conflicts, resolutions, WITH international appeal. I mean who says we can’t sell our shows abroad just as we buy shows from abroad? Who says we cant create a series with a format that can sell internationally? Isn’t that what most arab channels do? Buy formats and adapt them domestically? Why can’t we be original?

    When are most of these channels going to understand that the “Friends” episode they bought for $2,000 cost millions to begin with? Why can’t we apply the same model here (MENA)? Why don’t we invest in original programming here to sell, license and/or syndicate? Why must every show have a “presenter”? Enough already.

    I understand your frustration because i share it. I would also like to further share a few ideas with you, if possible.


    Mo Youssouf

    • May 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm

      Dear Mo,

      Content is indeed a key ingredient. What you describe is exactly what was behind our co-production of 3ard Khass for example. However, on its own, great content is not enough. As broadcasters, if we can not be rewarded for our investment in content through a fair financial return, then very few will have the appetite to continue investing. One of your solutions is a way to work around the current inefficiencies in our market: creating content that travels and finds a market abroad. That again means we need writers and producers who are able to extricate themselves from the Ramadan 20-episode formula and reconsider their approach to content creation in partnership with broadcasters.

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