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Wed 26 May 2004 04:00 AM

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MEA third in TV viewing

The Middle East and Africa rank third in time spent in watching television, after North America and Europe, according Eurodata.

The Middle East and Africa rank third in total TV viewing hours, after North America and Europe, according to a report published by Eurodata titled TV Worldwide.

The report, which covers 2.5 billion viewers across 72 countries and 600 channels, states that the Middle East's viewers watched an average of three hours and 15 minutes of TV a day, equivalent to almost 50 full days a year, up nearly 8% from last year.

This jump in regional viewing, which mirrors global trends, is driven by the explosion in TV choice led by pay TV networks, which in turn is a result of viewers demanding up-to-the-minute breaking news and the latest blockbuster movies. Ten years after pay TV was introduced into the Middle East, statistics underline the tremendous changes in TV consumption habits. These are in terms of time spent viewing and the kind of programmes people are watching.

Research recently conducted by Showtime also demonstrates that there is a move toward choosing viewing options based on the genre of programming desired at any given time. "We have 17 quality movie channels to choose from as well as genre channels to suit all tastes, whether it is comedy on the Paramount Comedy Channel, documentaries on the Discovery channels, music on MTV, sport, news, children's cartoons and so on," commented Peter Einstein, CEO of Showtime. "Because viewers find what they want to watch when they want, they tune in more often for longer periods."

Significantly, the Showtime research reveals that time-shift channels provide further flexibility by giving viewers at least two scheduled times, often one or two hours apart, to watch their favourite programmes. Channel choice particularly drives viewership and pay TV subscription. Ten years ago, there weren't more than 50 channels across the region; today, there are more than 1,100 in the Middle East and Africa, with music and news channels continuing to be some of the fastest growing. There are no less than 70 music channels available in the region.

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