x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

MBC launches Yahsat channels

The Arab world¿s biggest TV broadcaster MBC has begun transmitting its high-definition channels via an Abu Dhabi-owned satellite.

Mohamed Youssif, the chief executive of YahLive, left, and Sam Barnett, the chief executive of MBC, right. Jeff Topping / The National
Mohamed Youssif, the chief executive of YahLive, left, and Sam Barnett, the chief executive of MBC, right. Jeff Topping / The National

The Arab world's biggest TV broadcaster, MBC, has started transmitting its high-definition channels via an Abu Dhabi-owned satellite.

The television network, based in Dubai, said yesterday it had formed a partnership with YahLive, the TV arm of Abu Dhabi's satellite company Yahsat.

Seven of MBC's channels, including MBC1 and the Al Arabiya news station, will be beamed across the region using Yahsat's satellite.

Sam Barnett, the chief executive of MBC, said the broadcaster predicts a shift in demand from standard-definition (SD) to high-definition (HD) television broadcasts.

"We saw a significant increase in the penetration of high-definition TVs in the marketplace," said Mr Barnett.

"We foresee that this shift from SD to HD will continue over the next three to five years."

MBC launched several HD channels in July, having signed a deal with the set-top box company Technosat to roll out the technology.

Mr Barnett said Technosat was "on track" to sell 100,000 of the HD-compatible boxes by July, based on MBC's own estimates.

All of MBC's stations are free, but viewers must pay for the hardware to receive the broadcasts.

Mr Barnett said MBC was now offering its HD channels over other platforms such as YahLive, amid rising demand for better picture quality.

"I suspect that over the next three to five years, most broadcasters will need to be having an HD service in order to compete," he said.

MBC, which makes the bulk of its revenues from advertising, said it was not yet selling commercials specifically on the HD channels. "I'm not sure it's commercially interesting in an advertising sense just yet.

"It will happen, because [for] the people who get the HD boxes, you'll effectively segment the market," said Mr Barnett.

YahLive is a partnership between the European satellite operator SES and Yahsat, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.

Yahsat, Abu Dhabi's first commercial satellite company, launched its Y1A satellite into orbit in April.

One of its uses will be to beam television signals to the region, in competition with existing satellites operated by companies such as Nilesat and Arabsat.

The Y1A satellite beams television and telecommunications signals to more than two dozen countries in the Middle East, North Africa and south-west Asia.

Tareq Al Hosani, the chief executive of Yahsat, told The Nationalthis year the company was targeting "all the major broadcasters" to carry certain channels on the satellite.

He said Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) - which broadcasts channels such as Dubai TV, Dubai One and Dubai Sports - would be the first broadcast partner for the satellite.

But Mohamed Youssif, the chief executive of YahLive, said MBC would now be the "first broadcast" on the satellite.

He confirmed that YahLive is in talks with other media companies, including DMI.

"We've very close on announcing many deals," he said.

"We did sign a contract with DMI … We put a test signal on for one of the Dubai channels."

Mr Youssif said all the channels broadcast by YahLive would be HD.

"We will never have 600 channels that some other satellites do have. We're not about the quantity, we're about the quality," he said.

He said the satellite could eventually carry between 80 to 200 channels, including pay-TV stations.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae