x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

‘A new world for television’ at Dubai media expo

Media providers must not be shy to embrace non-traditional platforms for the delivery of content in the Middle East, according to Shahrzad Rafati, the chief executive of the Vancouver-based BroadbandTV Corporation.

A visitor checks the new cameras at the Sony stand during the Cabsat show in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
A visitor checks the new cameras at the Sony stand during the Cabsat show in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National

Media providers must not be shy to embrace non-traditional platforms for the delivery of content in the Middle East, according to the chief executive of a global media and technology company.

“We don’t live in a world any more where a viewer schedules their day around television schedules,” said Shahrzad Rafati, the chief executive of the Vancouver-based BroadbandTV Corporation. “Traditional television is here to stay, but the shift to media consumption via other means is one that’s not happening slowly.”

Ms Rafati made her comments in the keynote address at the Cabsat media content and distribution event, which opened yesterday in Dubai.

The UAE’s high internet penetration, and especially its high smartphone penetration, coupled with changing media consumption trends, are formidable challenges, but ones that could reap large rewards if engaged with correctly, she said.

“Looking at broadband and mobile penetration here I think there’s a massive opportunity for players active in the region to embrace those opportunities,” she said.

In particular, traditional media companies need an effective strategy to manage the distribution of content on online platforms such YouTube, especially when it is distributed illegally by third party users.

Ms Rafati outlined how BroadbandTV had worked with content providers such as the National Basketball Association and the A&E network in the United States to generate extra revenue via technology that tracks down non-official videos posted on YouTube, which is either removed or has advertising sold on it.

BroadbandTV last week announced plans to expand its presence in the Middle East. Ms Rafati said that the company already worked with a number of smaller content providers and was in discussions with larger players in the region, declining to give further details.

The company operates a network of more than 15,000 content providers that between them generate 1.45 billion YouTube impressions per month.

Traditional media companies in both the region and internationally are still struggling to generate revenue from content delivered through non-traditional platforms, said Sanjay Raina, the general manager of Fox International Channels for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

“The golden rule of the internet, in the consumer’s mind at least, is that everything is free, so no one wants to pay for online content,” he said.

Fox International has generated huge demand online for content from its channels, such as National Geographic, but such demand had not translated into a significant growth in revenue, he said.

Fox’s content is also offered on tablets and smartphones via OSN’s Play platform, but this does not generate additional revenue for the network.

“If you want people to pay for content, you need to give them something different,” he said, pointing to NetFlix’s original programming schedule, including dramas such as House of Cards, as generating key revenues for the company.

More than 13,000 delegates are expected to attend this year’s Cabsat, with more than 900 brands represented in the exhibition, for an increase of about 10 per cent on last year, according to the exhibition director, Andrew Pert.

Today’s keynote speakers include Sam Nicholson, the Emmy-award winning chief executive of Stargate studios, and Mark Sanger, who shared the Oscar for best editing this month for his work on Gravity.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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