GCC video industry to generate revenue of $1.6bn in 2020

GCC video industry to generate revenue of $1.6bn in 2020
Aravind Venugopal, vice president of Media Partners Asia (MPA), an independent research company. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 December 2020

GCC video industry to generate revenue of $1.6bn in 2020

GCC video industry to generate revenue of $1.6bn in 2020
  • The sector had a slowdown due to COVID-19, but a quick rebound is expected

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) video industry — comprising free TV, pay TV and online video — will generate revenues of $1.6 billion in 2020, a year-on-year decline of 13 percent, according to a new industry report.

The report, titled “GCC Video & Broadband Distribution 2020,” was compiled by independent research company Media Partners Asia (MPA) and focused on the current state of and future outlook for the telecoms, online video and pay TV industries across the six GCC countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“There are a number of factors driving the contraction in 2020 for the video industry, COVID-19 being a key one. However, well before the pandemic the signs of contraction were being felt in the ‘traditional’ video sector,” MPA Vice President Aravind Venugopal told Arab News.

“The FTA (free to air) TV sector and the pay TV sector have been in … decline for several years now as both consumer eyeball and spends, and advertising spends, move online,” he said.

“For consumers, prior to the introduction of SVOD (subscription video on demand) services, pay TV remained the only option for a subscription-based service with access to premium sports, Hollywood content and selected global language-specific content. With VOD the tables have turned, and consumers today have a number of services at their fingertips.”

Despite the negative short-term outlook, there are some positive highlights. The investment made by local SVOD players into creating premium Arabic-language content is impressive, and has helped drive a non-English base into the subscription model for the first time, and away from pay TV and FTA, Venugopal said.

Additionally, one cannot discount the role of broadband — the GCC region has seen stellar improvements in fixed and mobile broadband connectivity in recent years, helping drive growth in online video.

That growth will continue, especially in markets such as Saudi Arabia, where fixed broadband penetration is lower than its regional peers — providing much upside in the long term, Venugopal said.

“We estimate that the TV sector (comprising pay TV subscription, pay TV advertising and FTA advertising) contracted 30 percent in 2020 (versus 2019). However, this was … partially offset by a 26 percent growth in online video (subscription and advertising),” he added.

“What’s key to note here is that the online advertising sector is very much dominated by global majors (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter), which accounted for the bulk of the advertising spend, leaving little for domestic / regional players,” he said.

“For regional TV players such as MBC, Rotana, Abu Dhabi Media and others, that drop in traditional incomes hasn’t been offset by digital services just yet, though some are well underway in that journey to reposition themselves.”

One of the biggest impacts on the industry has been the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in a contraction in advertising revenues for the FTA sector of as much as 45 percent compared to 2019.

“I recall when I was in the region in late February / early March and had conversations with folks in the advertising space, the fear of COVID-19 reaching the region appeared … limited and mild. But within a few weeks, things changed drastically,” Venugopal said.

“Advertisers globally have cut budgets in a bid to conserve their cash balances. Separately, new products, product launches etc. have all been put on hold, which impacted advertising spend. A number of players have also reallocated budgets to digital, and in particular affiliate marketing (using e-commerce platforms), all of which has impacted TV.”

For the pay TV industry, the issue has been an increase in customer cancelations or reductions in the size of their subscription package as their income and employment come under pressure.

Looking toward a rebound in the industry in 2022, Venugopal is confident. “I believe a rebound is already underway, though a full correction to reach 2019 ad spend levels for both FTA and pay TV is unlikely in the short term, as well as for pay TV subscription revenue,” he said.

Venugopal estimates that TV advertising will grow at a 3 percent per annum compound over the next five years.

He said Saudi Arabia is an important market as it is home to nearly half the region’s subscribers to services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and the country will be “a key driver of any advertiser / agency media plan.”


Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
Updated 56 min 55 sec ago

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
  • The deal concerns the "interconnection" of the neighbours and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Greek prime minister said
  • The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising

ATHENS: Greece, Cyprus and Egypt on Tuesday signed an electricity agreement that could include Egyptian solar power and potentially supply power to other European countries.
The protocol was signed during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the presidents of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, in Athens.
The deal concerns the “interconnection” of the neighbors and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Mitsotakis said.
“As energy sources diversify, Egypt can become a supplier of electric power, which will be mainly produced by the sun, and Greece will become a distribution station for Europe,” Mitsotakis added.
The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising.
El-Sisi said the agreement aims to “reinforce energy cooperation.”
In a joint statement, the Mediterranean neighbors said: “This interconnection reinforces cooperation and energy security, not only between these three countries but also with Europe.”
“It will be a way to transfer important quantities of electricity from and to the eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said.
The three countries also expressed their intention of exploring and transferring natural gas in the region.
Energy cooperation between eastern Mediterranean countries regularly irritate Turkey, which has its eyes set on oil and natural gas deposits in the region.
“Unfortunately, Ankara does not understand the message of the times and its aspirations to the detriment of its neighbors are obviously a threat to peace in the region,” Mitsotakis said.
Tensions soared last year when Turkey sent an exploration ship and small navy flotilla to conduct research in waters that Greece considers its own under treaties.
The Turkish foreign ministry later Tuesday lambasted the joint statement as another example of the “hostile policy” toward Turkey and Turkish-held northern Cyprus.
While Ankara supported energy projects which “increased cooperation between regional countries,” the ministry stressed that Turkish and northern Cyprus’ rights and interests “should not be ignored by these projects.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey seized the north in response to a coup orchestrated by an Athens-backed junta seeking to annex the island to Greece.
Despite attempts this year to normalize relations with Egypt after falling out in 2013, the Turkish ministry also criticized Cairo’s cooperation with Greece and Cyprus.
“The inclusion of Egypt indicates that the Egyptian administration has not yet grasped the real address where it can cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean,” it added in a written statement.


Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

RIYADH: Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday approved raising the penalty for violating the Finance Companies Law to not more than SR2 million ($0.53 million), the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Following the amendment, the penalty shall be SR2 million or 10 percent of the value of finance to which the violation was carried out, or imprisonment for a period of not more than two years, or one of those two penalties.


Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report
Updated 19 October 2021

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

A report from Bank of America has warned reaching net zero will cost the global economy $5 trillion annually for the next 30 years.

On the eve of the UN’s COP26 environmental conference in Scotland this month, where countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions will review their progress and outline policies to achieve net zero by 2050, the report offers a stark reminder of the cost of transitioning to greener energy.

However, the report also warned that failing to address climate change could lead to the loss of 3 percent of global gross domestic product annually this decade, amounting to around $69 trillion by the end of this century.

A key priority at COP26 is for governments to agree on specific cash-backed policies that will accelerate the transition toward net zero, including a commitment to phase out the use of coal, sharply reduce deforestation, speed up the transition to electric vehicles and green heating systems, and implement fiscal measures to encourage increased investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the summit, which is taking place in Scotland’s former industrial heartland of Glasgow, will also attempt to get western governments to make good the $20 billion a year shortfall in helping emerging nations transition to greener energy.

Developed nations had agreed to provide $100 billion per year to emerging nations. Not only have they fallen short on that commitment, but the UN wants agreement in Glasgow to increase that funding further.

The UN Environment Programme estimates the cost of transition in emerging countries will reach $140-300 billion by 2030, and $280-500 billion by 2050. San Francisco based think tank, the Climate Policy Initiative, estimates Africa on its own may require up to $3 trillion by the end of this decade.

Against this backdrop, Bank of America estimates the total cost of transitioning will be $150 trillion, at least four times the amount that global COVID-19 stimulus packages are forecast to cost governments this decade.

The report states financing the trillions of dollars of investment needed for net zero will require “significant changes in capital allocation.”

As Arab News reported last week, the World Resources Institute said G20 countries still account for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, a report by Moody’s Investors Service revealed financial institutions in the G20 were carrying almost $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive sectors.

However, Bank of America said the use of labelled bonds and loans to address environmental issues is expanding rapidly.

It is forecasting more than $1 trillion in labeled bond issuance this year, with $900 billion in green, social and sustainability bonds and a further $100 billion in sustainability-linked bonds.

The report adds that labeled bonds already account for more than 20 percent of European high grade and European high yield issuance for corporates this year, driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns and EU regulations, more than twice the rate in 2020.

However, while the report is bullish about the ability of Western governments to pay for greening the planet, the report notes that while around 50 countries, along with the EU — which between them account for almost 75 percent of CO2 emissions — have committed to reaching net zero, only 10 countries have so far enshrined that commitment in legislation.

The report adds while a number of the countries have pledged to long-term targets, centered on 2050 or the end of the century, they have failed to make 2030 commitments in line with the Paris Agreement.

The good news? Well, Bank of America’s cost estimate is considerably lower than an earlier forecast, published in the summer, by BloombergNEF’s closely watched New Energy Outlook, which put the figure at $173 trillion, of $5.8 trillion annually.

Progress of sorts as the world heads to Glasgow. 


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah

Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


RIYADH: The Saudi-Moroccan Business Council on Tuesday signed four memorandums of understanding to strengthen partnership in tourism, electricity, renewable energy, logistics and food sectors.

The council also revealed plans to launch the “Two Kingdom’s Forum and Exhibition” in Jeddah in the first quarter of 2022.

Ali Al-Yami, head of the council, said a list of participating companies is being prepared.


Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

Saudi Arabia launches project to promote algae industry

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Fisheries Development Program on Tuesday launched a project to develop commercial algae technology and promote localization of the algae industry in the Kingdom.

The fisheries development program comes under the purview of the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. 

Ali Al-Shaikhi, the CEO of the program, said the project aims to promote the algae industry in the Kingdom and in order to do so the first commercial model for the cultivation of algae will be established in 2022. 

Al-Shaikhi said plans are also underway to establish an algae center in the Kingdom.