x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

OSN chief executive to take fight to pirates

The network says it will "eradicate" the illegal use of its signals by the end of the year as part of a piracy drive.

The pay-TV network OSN says it will "eradicate" the illegal use of its signals by the end of the year as part of a piracy drive. It expects the ongoing campaign to prompt a double-digit percentage increase in its subscriber base. The broadcaster, based in Dubai, has been rolling out new set-top boxes with added security features over the course of this year.

OSN's new chief executive said he anticipated double-digit percentage growth in its subscriber base when it became impossible to receive the TV channels illegally. "I would anticipate that by the end of this year we would have closed down the illegal reception of our signals," said David Butorac, who replaced Marc-Antoine d'Halluin as the chief executive of the company at the beginning of this month.

"The number one issue for pay-TV the world over is piracy. And in this market there is significant access to ours and other paid signals around the world in the pirated form. "I'd expect [a rise in subscriber numbers] relatively quickly. "There are a lot of people out there that love watching OSN content or channels that OSN aggregates to the market but have resisted the charm to pay us for them."

Mr Butorac said he expected many of those who received the channels illegally to convert into paying customers. The problem of piracy is endemic. According to industry estimates, there are at least 1.5 million illegal decoder boxes in the Gulf, which can be used to receive pay-TV broadcasts by using hacked passwords from the internet. Mr Butorac acknowledged that other forms of copyright abuse, such as the illegal copying of movies via file-sharing web services, was also a problem in the region. "It's going to be a long and ongoing process in terms of eradicating all forms of piracy," he said.

OSN, which was formed by last year's merger of Showtime Arabia and the rival pay-TV network Orbit, does not release subscriber figures. However, the former chief executive Mr d'Halluin has previously said OSN had "hundreds of thousands of subscribers". Mr Butorac said under his leadership OSN would be expanding the range of content geared towards the Arab market. This could include outsourced content, programmes dubbed into Arabic, or produced by OSN in-house, he said.

"In order to expand into the potential … millions of subscribers that we will have, we need to make certain we are relevant," said Mr Butorac. bflanagan@thenational.ae