Mobile broadband is the future
Digital media and mobile platform is the future for media companies across the Arab World. This was stated during the presentation of Arab Media Outlook 2008-2012 report at the Royal Mirage Hotel in Dubai.
The second edition released by the Dubai Press Club in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicts excellent growth opportunities for the region's media despite the global economic downturn.
Developments in digital media and the emergence of broadband access and TV delivered directly to mobile devices present exciting growth opportunities for media companies across the Arabic-speaking world.
However, the relatively limited availability of affordable broadband access across much of the region and the lack of reliable audience and readership figures for most of the region's media impede growth and confidence in the sector, revealed the Arab Media Outlook 2008-2012, the latest edition of the ground-breaking report on the current state of the Arab media.
Entitled Arab Media Outlook 2008-2012: Collaborating for Growth, the report covers 12 Arabic-speaking countries.
The report, prepared with support from Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and International Media Production Zone, focuses on the impact of global media trends on the media in the Arabic-speaking world and includes projections for advertising revenues for each country for the next five years.
Mona Al Marri, Chairperson of the Dubai Press Club, said: "We are proud to launch the second edition of the Arab Media Outlook, which is now well-established as the leading publication on the media in the Arab-speaking world. It is an important source of information on global and regional developments and is of interest to everyone who works in the media sector in the Arabic-speaking world, including the press, media executives, government policy-makers and regulators, financial investors and technology vendors."
Marcel Fenez, the Global Managing Partner of PwC's Entertainment and Media Practice said: "The Arabic speaking countries are one of the fastest-growing regions in the global media marketplace. Strong interest is being shown both by global and regional media companies together with financial investors for new and increased investment in the media sector. New developments in digital media and mobile broadband present tremendous opportunities for Arabic media companies and we expect to see significant growth in the sector in this region in the next five years despite the impact of the global financial crisis."
Powerful forces are affecting the media industry worldwide and they are presenting exciting new opportunities for media companies in the Arabic-speaking world. In particular, the increasing digitalisation of content opens up wide new markets for content producers and distributers across the region. The most promising opportunity is the delivery of this content to mobile internet-connected devices in the hands of the new generation of media consumers (the "Net Generation"), who have grown up with the internet and for whom mobile phones are an essential part of life.
The Net Generation – consumers in the 15-25 age group – is particularly important because of the high proportion of young people in most of the region.
These developments present tremendous opportunities and some challenges for traditional print and broadcast media companies as well as for new media companies, which specialise in digital media production and distribution. They also have implications for broadband network operators, government policy-makers and sector regulators. One of the main constraints on the development of digital media in the region up to now has been the lack of affordable high-quality broadband access in most markets in the region. This points to an important role for mobile technology with mobile phones rapidly emerging as a rival means of broadband access to internet content. The growth in mobile technology has seen the emergence of news and current affairs websites that rely on input from citizen journalists who directly upload information from their mobile cameraphones into newsrooms or cable television companies in the region.
Dr Amina Al Rostamani, Chief Executive Officer of Tecom Business Parks, said: "Overall, the report provides optimistic projections for the region's media sector. If the issues relating to broadband access and audience measurement are effectively addressed, we foresee significant value to be unlocked within the sector over the next five years. This will require close collaboration and strong commitment from all participants in the content creation and distribution value chain: the media, content owners and distributors, broadband operators, advertisers, technology vendors, financial investors and government policy-makers and regulators. It is our collective responsibility to ensure we develop the right environment for future growth."
The rapidly developing global economic crisis is now affecting the Middle East along with all other parts of the world and is impacting all sectors of the economy including the media. How exactly the impact on the media sector in the region will be felt is not yet entirely clear, but it will certainly affect advertising revenues – particularly through the downturn in the property sector, which has generated a high proportion of the region's advertising spend in recent years.
Total advertising revenues across the countries are projected to increase at compound annual growth rates over the period from 2008 to 2012 of between five per cent and 25 per cent in nominal terms. This includes the impact of both real growth and inflation, and takes account of lower real growth of activity during the current economic downturn.
All parts of the sector are projected to demonstrate growth over the period, with particularly strong growth in out-of-home advertising (roadside billboards) in most markets. Online advertising in the region is projected to grow very strongly from its current low level, particularly in those markets which have opened up their telecoms markets. Online advertising and the delivery of content to mobile devices present some of the most exciting opportunities in the region. In the future, mobile broadband and mobile TV are likely to become established as the preferred means of accessing news and entertainment content for the "Net Generation" across most of the Arabic-eaking world.
There are two main keys to unlocking the value which this opportunity presents. The first is investment in affordable broadband access, which is currently not available in much of the region, and associated investment in connectivity to the global internet. The second is the development of robust audience measurement processes. Lack of accurate audience data currently reduces advertiser confidence in the effectiveness of advertising and hence reduces their willingness to spend.
Maryam bin Fahad, Executive Director, Dubai Press Club, hoped decision-makers in the region would take appropriate steps to encourage investment in affordable broadband access and connectivity to the global internet. "Arab Media Outlook 2008-2012 tried to present as accurate a picture as possible of the emerging scenario for the region's media. There are of course huge challenges before us as a result of the economic crisis, but the message that the report gives is that while we recognise the challenges, we should not lose sight of the opportunities that abound. The challenges that we face are not insurmountable either," she said.
The new edition will be released in June 2009. Besides the print version and the CD-ROM, the report will also be available at the website of the Dubai Press Club www.dpc.org.ae
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