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Thu 12 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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Web TV: Now or never

Why the region's broadcasters must not play catch-up in the online video market or risk missing out.

It is difficult to identify the exact point in time when an emerging market officially becomes a developed one.

When you consider the various content delivery networks, broadband, mobile TV, IPTV in the Middle East it is probably fair to say that satellite is the only fully developed platform.

A number of announcements emanating from the GCC in recent months have suggested that broadband could be added to this (short) list during the next two years.

Both UAE telcos have confirmed that they will be increasing speeds and lowering prices and Qtel is continuing to forge ahead with its own FTTH network.

A recent report by InStat and Telegent predicted that Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia would all have broadband penetration rates over 75 percent by 2014, with Qatar hitting 98.3 percent. The development of satellite broadband for those in the MENA region outside of the major cities and their FTTH networks, and the 75 percent mark begins to look achievable.

The knock-on effect for content owners could be significant with channels opening up for web TV, online catch-up services, live streaming of special events, content portals and all the associated subscription and/or advertising revenues.

As the cost of broadband decreases and the total number of households with an internet service able to handle media-rich applications grows, a compelling case for online video content will develop.

These opportunities have not been missed by entities outside of the region's core broadcasters. Expect existing content services offered directly by the telcos to receive a boost. Handset manufacturers such as Nokia have already staked their claims in the local market. ADMC's GETMO service, iTunes (for those with foreign credit cards), Xbox Live and Sony's Playstation Network are all well-established in the local market.

As the coverage and quality of broadband grows in the region, broadcasters must now play catch-up in the online video market or risk missing out.

John Parnell is the deputy editor of Digital Broadcast.

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