DUBAI: Television remains the preferred entertainment option in the Middle East, but web TV is having some impact on marketing tactics in the region, according to industry figures, even though it has yet to make serious inroads into audience figures.

Sumo Dutta, country head at Star Middle East Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, told Gulf News that sales of flat panel TVs were at an all-time high. "TV is still the key medium to deliver top quality content," he said, "and 'appointment viewing' to key programmes happens only on TV."

He compared the viewing of content on other screens to snacking "while appointment viewing with the family is the main meal ... which happens on TV".

The figures bear him out, with the region's TV viewers consuming 7.5 hours of content each day, while pay TV subscriber numbers in the Middle East and North Africa are expected to hit 15.8m by 2017, a 20% penetration of TV households.

Christopher O'Hearn, general manager at tview, the TV audience measurement system, was in broad agreement. "Online viewing is growing but it is still a tiny percentage of broadcast and will struggle to get a mass audience which can be monetised, as people don't accept advertising in the same way," he said.

Others, however, were looking beyond that. "The possibilities web TV offers advertisers has changed the definition of TV commercials completely," declared Ashish Gupta, associate director for digital at media agency BPG Maxus.

He argued that web TV enabled focused targeting and noted that "some [advertisers] have already begun combining their TV and internet TV campaigns to deliver a trans-medium experience to their targets."

But O'Hearn did not anticipate any fundamental changes in viewing habits, pointing out that even in developed markets TV viewing was higher now than ten years ago.

"A huge amount of social media is about television," he added. "Without TV and the celebrities and programmes on it there'd be a lot less chat on Twitter."

"TV," he concluded, "is the sun at the centre of a galaxy of devices and platforms."

Data sourced from Gulf News; additional content by Warc staff