DUBAI: The online video category is set to grow "exponentially" in the Middle East and North Africa in 2015, according to an industry figure, with other key trends including the rise of programmatic buying, more ad-free content models and precision marketing.

Writing in Gulf News, Jochen Bischoff, digital director at media buying group SMG, observed that online video was benefitting from faster consumer connectivity, superior media ROI and innovation in video formats.

And he expected that competition for video budgets would only increase as various social networks weighed into the battle to take money from traditional TV budgets.

At the same time, however, regional channels such as BeinSports, and are looking to expand their TV audiences online in order to ensure they don't lose out.

Bischoff also noted that penetration of smart TVs in MENA is forecast to hit 40% of households in 2015, "hinting at the role connected systems will play in distributing digital messages on TV sets".

He predicted that programmatic media buying would become "the fastest growing lane in MENA's digital industry" as the focus shifted from "performance advertisers" to more mainstream brands and as more premium publishers developed their programmatic offering.

And he also anticipated the region's media owners would explore the possibilities of ad-free content models, following the trend set by the likes of Netflix and Spotify. Already Shahid Premium and Anghami Plus offer regional examples of, respectively, video on demand and music streaming apps that offer an ad-free service to subscribers.

Marketers would also, he suggested, have to respond to the greater levels of transparency made possible by mobile.

For example, some 90% of Saudi mobile consumers and 60% of Egypt's use their phones to check prices and product reviews while shopping, Bischoff reported. And, as a consequence, three quarters had interrupted a purchasing process.

Marketers would therefore have to "turn in-store media efforts into precision marketing" while at the same time ensuring "positive experiences for consumers making product and service queries and comparisons".

Data sourced from Gulf News; additional content by Warc staff