Israel is debating another reform in its broadcast TV industry, which allows an interesting peek on the numbers constructing the Israeli media market.
Currently there two private broadcast TV channels in Israel, which are supported through advertising (there is a government supported public channel as well). Channel 2 started operating commercially in 1993 and Channel 10 joined the competition in 2002. Both channels are operated through permits, which means that they have to be renewed every few years, which in turn is supposed to give the public body that monitors these channels, the Second Authority, the leverage to make demands for quality content.
One can debate whether or not the Authority is successful in imposing content quality standards, but the reform is aimed at moving from the permit regime to a license regime. According to those pushing for the reform, this will allow to introduce another player to the Israeli broadcasting media market. Since such a shift requires amending the law, the story starts with discussions in the Economic Committee of Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.
So, what can we learn from these debates?
- According to Menashe Samir, the CEO of the Second Authority, the annual income of the commercial broadcasting TV stands on NIS 1.2 billion (around US $320 million), while operating a channel costs about NIS 400 million (around US $70 million). Eran Pollack, from the Ministry of Finance, provided some more specific data, saying that in 2008 the commercial broadcasting channels had incomes of NIS 700 million for Channel 2 (US $187 million) and NIS 400 million for Channel 10 (US $107 million).
- Eran Polack also said that in 2008 the overall TV industry in Israel had an income of approximately NIS 5.5. billion (US $1.47 billion). The break down is really interesting. The commercial broadcasting TV channels account only for a small portion of that pie; the Israeli cable and satellite TV providers account for almost two thirds of it. HOT, the cable company had an income of NIS 2.085 billion (US $559 million) in 2008, and YES, the satellite company had an income of NIS 1.415 billion (US %378 million). Also, the public channel accounted for about NIS 350 million of income (US $94 million).
- As to the viewers, according to Yehuda Saban from the budget department, an average Israeli views 225 minutes of TV a day – over 3 and a half hours. Children watch TV even more than that. All this in spite of the fact that the costs of cable/satellite TV in Israel are relatively high; at the bottom 20% of the income group, people spend as much as 1.2% of their monthly income on TV.
It is f course also interesting to see how both supporters and opponents of the reform justify their positions through claims for greater societal benefit, but I won’t torture you with this now