A marketplace is by definition the interpreter of supply and demand. For the past 2 decades up until relatively recently, demand for content in the Arab World’s TV industry has been concentrated around the regional TV networks. The buying cycle for international content has been relatively simple: agents and distributors source titles from Content Markets, localize them, and sell them as many times as the rights granted allow.
However, over the past 2 years the demand within the MENA marketplace has changed: OTT platforms and Telcos have started coming in with new budgets and big promises. Supply is no longer only created by big production houses: new and innovative producers are starting out on YouTube, building audiences and gaining quality and popularity and interest from major networks. These unconventional demand and supply trends have made the marketplace more complex for traditional distributors and agents.
The economics are more complex too: demand for good content is almost at its peak, but budgets are tighter as broadcaster ad revenues decline, and digital platforms are still scrambling to figure out a monetization model that works with an audience used to free content. The result is an increasing need for flexibility and risk sharing in deal structures, and a movement towards more direct engagement between buyers and sellers. We’re witnessing a trend where content buyers are demanding greater transparency, and increasingly connecting and directly negotiating deals with rights holders.
How big is the MENA Content Marketplace?
Based on mena.tv research, there are currently 959 Free to Air TV channels in MENA, 763 of which originate from the region. There are also over 274 pay TV channels, 131 of which are originated in MENA. On top of linear broadcasters there are over 20 OTT platforms servicing the region, and several telcos with an independent VOD or IPTV service. That’s close to 1,000 buying entities seeking fresh content in the region.
Content acquisition professionals from these regional broadcasters and platforms need access to a continuous supply of content covering a full range of genres, all rights cleared for the region. The same goes for the increasing number of international platforms catering to Arab audiences abroad. The globalisation of the content market also means that there are now numerous buyers looking to fill their own schedules with imported Arabic content.
The origins of the mena.tv content hub
ChannelSculptor has been working with regional and international broadcasters for 10 years. We could see the MENA content market was evolving and required a radical new approach to content sales. We responded in January 2017 with the launch of the MENA region’s first online content marketplace, www.mena.tv - allowing buyers to search/browse titles year-round and connect directly with rights holders.
The portal aims to present a comprehensive of content offering representing both international and regional producers and distributors. Our objective is for every buyer in the region to be an active user of the portal, so It’s important that mena.tv content hub offers a very diverse range of content, from premium titles to library shows – across as many genres and countries of origin as possible.
The content hub is, of course, popular with international vendors seeking direct access to regional buyers, but it is also used by international buyers seeking Arabic content from the region. The website recently witnessed a wave of registrations from Content Acquisition specialists representing international VOD platforms, Broadcasters, and inflight entertainment who are expanding their services into the Arab World or to their Arab audiences abroad. Frequent international users of the hub observe that through mena.tv, they’re able to find a variety of titles, watch screeners, and communicate with the rights holders quickly and easily.
Growing the MENA Content market through cooperation
Just like any traditional content marketplace, the purpose of mena.tv is to promote cooperation and communication within the industry. Once a year, we host a gathering of TV Industry CEO’s in a private workshop aimed at encouraging meaningful partnerships and discovering new opportunities. Fares Sayegh, CEO and Founder of Ro’ya TV is one of the participants: “The reason Ro’ya TV is the number one broadcaster in Jordan is because we identify opportunities and are open to co-operation. mena.tv has paved the way to connect us with many potential partners, and we have secured a few successful co-production deals, one of them with Discovery Network”.
Of course, cooperation and value creation go beyond individual partnerships. We managed to achieve cooperation on a large scale this year at MIPCOM when for the first time in 35 years, nine prominent Arabic production companies and broadcasters came together under a single Arabic pavilion organized by mena.tv. Rotana Media, Cedars Art Productions, Eagle Films, Ro’ya TV, Arab Telemedia Group, Al Aan TV, Union Media, Issam Hijjawy and Abu Dhabi Media (Majid Kids TV) presented a compelling range of high-quality original Arabic content to a global audience of over 10,000 buyers, supported also by the first ever Arabic content catalogue.
Our MIPCOM partners were rewarded with an average of 30 buyer meetings each during the show. Ahmed Abdelhamid, Head of Programming and Acquisitions of Majid Kids TV, a leading children channel owned by Abu Dhabi Media was one of our busiest participants “We participated at MIPCOM as exhibitors this year within the mena.tv pavilion. We’ve had numerous meetings that resulted in significant partnerships. We have already concluded three deals with international companies and looking forward to announce the pending ones.”
Prominent production/ distribution companies with vast libraries such as Eagle Films who regularly host a big booth at MIPCOM, were also active participants within the co-operation initiative set up by mena.tv. With their brand being promoted on the mena.tv pavilion and catalogue, Nahi Sannan, CCO at Eagle Films was pleased with the outcome: “We are very happy with our achievements at MIPCOM this year. Our team had a full diary of meetings, and we’re in advanced discussions with 10 international entities interested in the high quality productions that we offer. With some of our titles already dubbed/ subtitled to three languages, we’re releasing 4 new titles this Ramadan, two of which will also be suitable for exporting globally.
"Value creation is one of the core principles of the company: our CEO repeatedly reminds me: “If we’re not adding any value to anyone, we won’t do it”. We continuously support and partner with content industry events such as MIPCOM, NATPE, DISCOP, TVConnect, and DICM - where mena.tv either facilitates buyer attendance and engagement, supports the conference program or both.
Looking forward to Dubai International Content Market
There is no substitute for face to face meetings between content buyers and sellers. As Dubai International Content Market approaches, mena.tv is already connecting International vendors with regional buyers as a prelude to them meeting in person at the event. The business culture in the region relies heavily on relationship building. Establishing communications online, well in advance of the show, is invaluable when it comes to concluding a deal. Our vendor members are encouraged to attend our partner content markets to come and shake hands with buyer members, put a face to a name and get those pending deals signed.
Right now, more than before, demand for content is exceeding regional supply. Thanks to the growing number of OTT platforms catering to different niches audiences, it’s a bigger pie that everyone can get a piece of. mena.tv will be happily handing out the plates!