beIN dispute hits MENA pay TV subscribers

Monday, January 21st, 2019
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Pay TV revenues for 20 MENA countries fell by 11% between 2016 and 2018 to just under $3 billion. Given the hangover from the beIN ban and falling ARPUs, revenues in 2024 ($3.28 billion) will still be lower than in 2016 ($3.36 billion).

Five countries will contribute 78% of the region’s pay TV revenues in 2024. Turkey and Israel together will supply nearly half the pay TV revenues in 2024.

MENA pay TV revenues by country (Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, others) - 2024
Source: Digital TV Research

Concentrating just on the 13 Arabic-speaking countries, pay TV revenues fell by 16% from $1,254 million in 2016 to $1,059 million in 2018. The total will recover to reach $1,432 million by 2024. Pay TV subscriptions fell by 9.5% between 2016 and 2018 to 3.40 million, but will progress to 5.23 million by 2024.

Simon Murray, Principal Analyst at Digital TV Research, said: “Pay TV in the MENA region has been hit by a Saudi-led ban on the sale of Qatar-backed beIN decoders and subscriptions since mid-2017.”

He continued: “The ban has been compounded by BeoutQ, an illegal platform that re-transmits some of beIN’s content especially its exclusive sports rights. The region is no stranger to piracy, but the sophistication of the BeoutQ operation is beyond anything seen before. beIN is fiercely protesting BeoutQ, with the support of major content owners, especially sports federations. We believe that the situation will be resolved in 2019; given the international pressure to drop the ban and to close BeoutQ.”

beIN lost 464,000 subscribers – or 47% of its subs base – in the two years to end-2018 to take its total down to 525,000. The 2016 total is unlikely to be bettered until 2021. beIN is forecast have 1.40 million subscribers by 2024.

Pay TV turmoil is not confined to the Arab world. OTT platforms provide considerable competition to the traditional pay TV sector in the region’s largest markets: Israel and Turkey.

Israel will lose 10% of its pay TV subs between 2014 to 2024. Israeli pay TV revenues will fall from more than $1 billion in 2015 to $675 million in 2024 – down by a third.
The Turkish pay TV market has been shaken up by greater competition. Turkish pay TV revenues will reach $910 million in 2024; lower than the 2016 total. However, the number of pay TV subscribers will grow from 7.15 million in 2018 to 9.01 million in 2024. Turk Telekom will become the region’s largest operator by subscriber numbers in 2020.