How SIS Live is expanding its Middle East service
MENA is an exciting growth area for broadcast facilities provider SIS Live. Managing director David Meynell describes the company's recent expansion into the region
SIS Live activities in MENA have largely centred on satellite connectivity in and out of the region, which has primarily been used for news or sport originating anywhere in the Gulf region, or in the UK. For the latter, we connect to the MENA region via one of our UK teleports to be received wherever it’s required in MENA.
As I mentioned, we also provide satellite capacity out of the region, and a significant portion of it is to connect MENA customers with either sports stadiums in the UK, international data centres, or onward paths for connections to Asia or the Americas.
So, the satellite connectivity side of SIS LIVE’s business still provides a solid revenue stream. That said, there are a number of broadcaster, satellite, or news agencies in the region that buy satellite capacity only, which is very price sensitive. News in particular is still delivered by traditional SNG-type connectivity rather than emerging technologies such as cellular bonded connectivity, which means demand for satellite capacity remains high. But what it also means is that although we provide a lot of capacity-only sales for quite a number of customers, one of the challenges is that sales for satellite capacity is very competitive and there are a number of operators with their own leases, like ourselves, competing for that business.
At the end of the day, however, the differentiator boils down to delivering the right service at the right price at the right time, typically because the demand for this connectivity service is immediate. We often get requests for a satellite booking that is required within the hour, which means our UK-based booking team needs to turn that around quickly for the client by getting the satellite details and confirmation organised and out to the customer straight away. Fortunately, we have a very capable and experienced team who add considerable value to our service offering by being so readily available to “switch on”, as it were.
Business is also progressing, if slightly differently, on the fibre connectivity side, in which SIS LIVE is also very strong. We have more than 100 sport and entertainment venues and international data centres connected to our Anylive fibre network within the UK, and a great many Middle East broadcasters, partners, and customers are showing a great deal of interest in tapping into some of that venue connectivity. However, there are some challenges to getting that done in MENA, which we are steadily resolving.
There are a number of challenges for providing fibre connectivity in MENA, the primary one being that getting into this territory is very expensive. The proverbial “last mile” is often owned by the local telco who charge hefty premiums for access. To mitigate that obstacle, we are looking to connect through other data centres, Paris for example, where some of the major MENA broadcasters already have a presence, perhaps establishing a connection there and delivering our services from the UK to those international data centres, and then on to customers in MENA. It’s an approach that is slightly off piste, but with fibre the actual route to market doesn’t really matter. The fibre proposition has too many advantages, particularly in light of the migration to IP-based products and services not to develop it in tandem with established satellite offerings.
SIS LIVE owns approximately 100 MHz of in-house satellite capacity, which is dedicated to the important occasional use market, which as I’ve mentioned is generally what we provide in MENA. We have also sold a considerable number of satellite transponders to MENA broadcasters, which they then use internally for their own satellite capacity needs across the region.
All in all, MENA is proving to be an exciting growth area for us. We previously had a manufacturing department where we made and sold satellite terminals, VSATs and other equipment, but that division has since been sold. However, what it established is a legacy of positive name recognition, which has since translated into steadily increasing sales over the last several years for satellite capacity, fibre connectivity, and services originating from the UK. Our reputation and recognition is very good, which means that this part of the world is emerging even further as a key market for our newer services.
In MENA, it’s all about delivering a price-sensitive service in double-quick time while ensuring that every little detail is correct. And it’s our ability to respond quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively that has continued to separate us from the pack of competitors offering similar services in this territory.