x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Triple growth before your eyes

Dubai-based digital media firm says it is in talks with four regional telecoms companies over TV services.

Intigral is holding talks with regional telecommunications operators concerning the provision of digital video.
Intigral is holding talks with regional telecommunications operators concerning the provision of digital video.

The media company Intigral plans to increase the number of TV channels it offers to 150, and says it is in talks with "at least four" regional telecommunications operators about providing digital video.

Intigral, which is based in Dubai, is a joint venture between Saudi Telecom Company (STC), All Asia Networks and Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

The company acquires the rights to film and TV content and encodes it for delivery over internet protocol television (IPTV), mobile devices and the web. It provides TV and video-on-demand for Invision, STC's pay-TV service.

Karim Daoud, the company's chief executive, says Intigral is in talks with regional telecoms companies about providing other video services. "I could list at least four today between the Gulf and the Levant," Mr Daoud says. "The mandate of Intigral is definitely regional … Once you do it once for one client, you have economies of scale."

While IPTV services are already active in the region through operators such as Etisalat and du in the UAE and STC in Saudi Arabia, there are opportunities elsewhere, says Mr Daoud. "Smaller countries just around us here - be it Bahrain, be it Kuwait, be it Qatar - might find significant interest in our value proposition," he says.

Ismaeel Makdisi, the vice president of corporate affairs and general counsel at Intigral, says the company "will soon be providing IPTV services to entities and platforms outside Saudi Arabia".

Intigral encodes more than 50 channels for STC's Invision service, including Al Jazeera Sports and several MBC and OSN channels.

Mr Makdisi says the number of channels it provides will triple this year. "We're going from 50 channels to 150 channels - that's our goal in the foreseeable future, this year," he says.

"It's not just the number of channels, it's also the quality of channels. We're highlighting the importance of HD quality, for example."

Mr Makdisi says Intigral's offering is a "one-stop shop", in that it forms content deals with various broadcasters and studios, which can be served over many other platforms, such as STC's Invision. Nick Grande, the managing director of Channel Sculptor, a television consultancy in Dubai, says the business model makes sense.

"From a content owners' point of view, you don't want to be involved in protracted negotiations with 45 or so telcos in the Mena region," Mr Grande says. "But you do want to get the best prices for your product.

"I think a number of other players have identified a need for centralised aggregation of content. It makes sense for a party to sit between the two. I believe there are other businesses going aggressively into this space."

Mr Grande says IPTV could provide a revenue boost for regional telecoms companies, pointing to several GCC markets.

"You want to look at places with high GDP and low geographical footprints, so Kuwait, Bahrain and to a lesser extent Oman," he says.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae