Arab Advisors Group
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Who wants to be a millionaire? Smart telecom operators join the fray!
Monday, December 3, 2001

Ramadan to the predominantly Moslem Arab World, is what thanksgiving and Christmas are to America. According to newly released research from Arab Advisors Group ( some telecom operators in the region appear to be savvy in leveraging the holiday season's extra revenues by taking a piece from the revenues of popular TV shows.

December 03, 2001 -
The advent of the holy month of Ramadan signals a reduced work-day, enhanced TV ads, hot competition between TV satellite stations on attracting audiences and an increased frequency of prize shows and talk shows.

Telecom operators, especially in semi-competitive duopoly countries in the Arab World also enter the fray. In Jordan, for example, the two mobile operators are offering daily prizes for people who send SMS or who participate in quizzes specially designed to boost air-time levels. Other operators across the region traditionally offer special discounts around the end of the month (when Eid El Fitr, Ramadan's feast, arrives) in order to increase traffic and usage levels amongst people calling family and friends. "Across the world, special holidays mean more calls to family and friends (which offsets reduced business traffic) and Ramadan in the predominately Moslem countries is no exception", noted Jawad Abbassi, Arab Advisors Group president. "Our analysts have actually analyzed some of the more successful regional examples as our recently released research on Batelco's premium rate numbers shows", Mr. Abbassi added.
The new research - entitled "+900 973 looks familiar to most Arab Satellite TV audiences, but it's no ordinary number "- was released to Arab Advisors Group's Strategic Research Service subscribers. Hala Baqain, author of the research, concludes that "Batelco, Bahrain's monopoly operator, has been quite successful in leveraging the massive popularity of satellite TV shows to enhance its Audiotex services revenues from across the region."
"The Arab world has recently been introduced to new TV entertainment shows. These "call & win" programs give the participant the chance to enter a certain contest and win huge amounts of money after dialing the 900 numbers displayed on the TV set. Examples of these shows include the Arabic versions of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Greed, The Weakest Link, The Trap and others broadcasted on Arabic satellite channels such as MBC, Future and LBC, among others. This new trend in TV shows has attracted many viewers and is reaping much success. As a result, there has been a tidal wave of copycat shows taking place on other Arabic channels, especially at the arrival of Ramadan such shows proliferate since it is the "holiday season" for the Arab World." Ms. Baqain, an Arab Advisors Group analyst wrote in the research.

When a caller in, say, Lebanon dials a 900 number in Bahrain to participate in one of the "call & win" shows on Arabic Satellite TV station. Ogero Telecom, Lebanon's operator, collects the call's charges from the caller then sends the settlement rate agreed with Batelco, to Batelco. Batelco gives a portion of the settlement fees to the Audiotex Service Provider (Batelco currently hosts five service providers and aims at hosting more private Audiotex Service Providers). The Service Provider then pays the Information Provider, the "call & win" shows, a certain predetermined rate agreed upon by both parties.
Batelco's great market share in providing the popular TV shows with audiotex numbers, stems from the fact that it was the first to launch the service in the region back in September 1996. This made Batelco the most experienced in this field and until recently the only provider (Etisalat, the United Arab Emirates' national provider, recently launched a similar service as well).
"Batelco's apparent success in leading the way in pan-Arab audiotex services, contributes positively to its revenues and bottom line" Hala Baqain noted. "Batelco is taking in massive numbers of international calls from across the Arab World's 250 million people. This contributes to increasing the revenues collected by Batelco in the form of settlement fees from regional telecom operators. Traditionally, and owing to its position as a banking center, Bahrain's international outgoing minutes surpassed the international incoming minutes (134 million vs. 106 million in 1999), making Batelco a net payer of settlement fees. A rapid rise in incoming minutes spurred by extremely popular TV shows, may well change this situation." Ms. Baqain explained in her note. "During the holiday season, some operators get more presents than others! Batelco is one such operator". Ms. Baqain commented.

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