OSN has inked a deal with Philippines broadcaster ABS-CBN to distribute four channels to the large Filipino and South-East Asian community in the Gulf States. The four channels (TFC, Bro, Cinema One Global and ANC) will be carried from 1 May within the three channel packages that the Dubai-based operator is offering and are targeting this community. Following this deal OSN will carry around 50 Filipino and South-east Asian channels, the largest number so far of any pay TV operator in the MENA region. The four channels will be offered at no extra cost.
In a parallel development, My-HD has signed an exclusive distribution contract with the oldest Filipino broadcaster, the GMA Network. The deal predicts the carriage of three of GMA's international channels as a separate My-HD pay TV package (called MyGMA Pay TV package), starting from 1 May for a total monthly cost of $24. These channels were formerly being distributed by OSN. The three channels are an international news channel called GMA News TV International, a general entertainment channel called GMA Pinoy TV and a lifestyle channel called GMA Life TV. The distribution deal covers all MENA countries plus some other Eastern Mediterranean countries like Cyprus, Malta, Israel, Greece and Turkey.
The largest Filipino communities live in the UAE and Qatar. The total number of Filipinos in the region as a whole is estimated to be 2.4-3m people. The main form of entertainment for these large communities is watching TV and preferably channels stemming from their home territory. Every IPTV operator offers at least one (and most commonly two) Filipino packages. This has contributed substantially in boosting the pay TV penetration levels for some countries, and particularly the UAE and Qatar. Pay TV penetration is these two states is much higher than the regional norm: 79.9 per cent in Qatar and 78.2 per cent in Qatara at the end of 2012, according to IHS MENA Intelligence estimates.
OSN's relatiionship with the Filipino communities in the Gulf States goes back at least a decade when both Orbit and Showtime (the two media entities that merged in August 2009 to form OSN) were offering Filipino channels. For a pay TV operator with the scale and size of OSN, the strong affinity it enjoys not only from the Filipino and the South-East Asian communities but from the Western expats as well, is of great value. Currently the Dubai-based operator offers three packages addressed to this audience: Pinoy Plus (offering 39 channels, 14 of them in HD, for $32 per month), TFC Plus (with the same content and price as Pinoy Plus) and TFC Plus Extra (offering 50 channels, 18 of them in HD, for a 41.4$ per month).
My-HD is a newcomer in the MENA pay TV marketplace. The Dubai-based operator is counting on a low-cost HD offer to lure subscribers away from the more established pay TV operators. With the GMA Network deal, My-HD is offering the same channels that were previously carried by OSN at a price 25 per cent lower. My-HD's goals are further boosted by the proliferation of HD-equipped households: according to IHS MENA Intelligence, 16m households in the Middle East and North Africa were equipped with at least one HD TV set at the end of 2012, and the penetration rate in the Gulf States exceeded 57 per cent (with Qatar holding a staggering 81.27 per cent HD-enabled households). IHS MENA Intelligence forecasts that HD-enabled households will increase by 140 per cent by 2017.