TBS 11, Fall-
Winter 2003

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Nilesat Research Shows Increased Penetration

By Hussein Amin

The latest Nilesat viewership research conducted in June 2003 in five countries, coupled with estimates based on 2002 statistics for a further four, indicate that the Egyptian satellite's transmissions now reach almost 7.1 million households in the Middle East, nearly double the number for 2002.

According to Nilesat figures, in Lebanon, 80 percent of an estimated one million households with dish currently receive Nilesat's transmission. In Egypt, 24 percent of 15 million households receive Nilesat signals. Of fifty thousand households in Kuwait, almost 50 percent were receiving Nilesat.

The table shows the latest figures:

Country
Population
(000,000)
Households in
2003(000)
Households
Receiving Nilesat
in 2002 (%)
Households
receiving Nilesat
in 2003 (%)
Nilesat Viewership
2003(000)
Saudi Arabia
24.4
3,940
29
42
1,655
Kuwait
2.6
50
*
49
245
Jordan
5.5
1,085
*
35
373
Egypt
70.8
15,100
9
24
3,624
Oman
2.7
441
*
20
88
Lebanon
5.3
1,021
85
80
817
Bahrain
0.8
125
35
30
38
Qatar
0.5
89
40
60
53
UAE
3.4
661
*
44
291

Tables courtesy of Salah Hamza, Head of Engineering Department, Nilesat
* Not provided

The figures show a substantial increase in the percentage of Nilesat viewers in almost all the countries researched in 2003. Exceptions are Lebanon and Bahrain. The 5 percent decline in Lebanon is attributed by Nilesat to unauthorized distribution of Pay-TV lines, while Bahrain's 8 percent is discounted as statistically insignificant in view of the country's small total viewership base.

Egypt's Nilesat satellite was first mooted as an idea by media experts in the early 1970s. With the spread of satellites worldwide, the Egyptian government reserved an orbit in space in 1977.

Established as an investment company in 1996, Nilesat launched its first satellite, Nilesat 101, in April 1998 and the second generation satellite Nilesat 102 in August 2000. Nilesat 102 uses technology that includes a Digital Compression Coverage system and has an additional receiving horn antenna that enables unlinking from Europe for direct transmission to the coverage area.

For a long time, the TV scene in the area was controlled by national government terrestrial television services. Satellite initially provided room for more and more TV channels, most of which, however, focused on the retransmission of government TV. Following the introduction of the Arabsat satellite in 1996, a change in market and audience has occurred.

The increase of private investment in new TV channels occurred as a result of the evolution of digital transmission via satellite and DBS and has led to an increased demand for satellite capacity.

Nilesat 101 transmitted sixty TV channels in 1998. Today Nilesat 102 hosts 203 TV channels, 50 percent of them free-to-air.

In order to meet the future requirements of customers, Nilesat develops and updates its technicality and functions constantly. Interactivity, multitasking, pay-per-view, matching between SMS and TV, and installation of the MPEG2/DVB storage system are examples of Nilesat's development.

Nilesat has also established a Data Transmission Platform that enables content and service providers to rapidly and cost effectively distribute multimedia, data packages and Internet content via Nilesat satellites directly to PCs in business and homes.

Today three Pay-TV services are operating in the area two of which are carried by Nilesat. The market share of these bouquets remains minimal, however, due to the availability to viewers of extensive free-to-air services.

With a financial structure of almost 50 percent capital and 50 percent loans, the company achieved an average growth rate of 15% over the period from 1999-2002. The company's earnings before interest tax, depreciation, and amortization were US$37.6 million in 2002; earnings before interest tax margin reached 26.4% in the same year. The company operates under the free zone system and as such is not subject to income tax.

Despite debates concerning the success of Nilesat, it is still riding high, and bidding to be the hot bird of the Middle East. TBS


Hussein Amin is chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of the American University in Cairo and TBS senior editor.

Copyright 2003 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the
Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo
E-mail: TBS@aucegypt.edu