Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Counting the cost of illegal TV

Easily obtainable and cheaper than local television providers, many residents turn to illegal satellite TV providers.
Authorised television service providers say that they could be losing up to 40 per cent of their business as many residents opt for illegal satellites and decoders. Sarah Dea / The National
Authorised television service providers say that they could be losing up to 40 per cent of their business as many residents opt for illegal satellites and decoders. Sarah Dea / The National

ABU DHABI // Many electronics retailers in the capital continue to sell banned decoding receivers and install unauthorised satellite services for international television channels.

Authorised dealers for television viewing services have claimed they are losing up to 40 per cent of their business because of illegal decoders and the proliferation of illegal satellite dishes, which flies in the face of the city’s ongoing battle to cut down on the number of them littering rooftops.

J Raj, a team leader at a satellite service provider in Abu Dhabi, said: “Due to illegal installations and subscriptions to South Asian television channels, we lose 30 to 40 per cent of our business in the country. Losing up to 40 per cent of customers means losing a huge amount of money.”

Most receivers are bought by South Asian residents to avoid subscribing to more expensive official services, he said.

These receivers are easily available, said Mr Raj, whose company is an authorised television service provider for OSN.

Retailers charge between Dh490 and Dh700 for installing an illegal satellite dish. Then, subscriptions cost between Dh200 and Dh260 for six months of illegal viewing.

“The anti-piracy coalition and other authorities have been cracking down on unauthorised satellite service providers and dealers after the CID obtained a list of illegal subscriptions to South Asian television channels,” Dubai Police said last June.

David Butorac, chief executive of OSN, also said last year: “We are thankful to the authorities for their swift action. For a long time, TV piracy was seen as a victimless crime, but the loss in revenue for the industry and the adverse impact it has on the region’s creative talent is immense.

“We urge illegal content viewers to subscribe to a legal pay-TV service and respect the copyright laws of the UAE.”

Mohammed Ikram, a salesman at Wafa Technical Systems Services on Hamdan Street, said people from countries such as India and Pakistan brought receivers from their home countries or illegally bought them here because they are much cheaper than signing up for service through local TV providers.

Receivers are available for Dish TV, Airtel and Tata Sky and other broadcast satellite television providers in India, and are much cheaper than services through local providers such as Etisalat, du and OSN.

The sellers of illegal receivers should be tracked down so legitimate businesses can prosper, said Mr Ikram, who believes television piracy costs the local industry millions of dirhams a year.

He said the Cricket World Cup, which is under way at the moment, would normally see a wave of new subscribers. However, this year, business for him has been slow.

Many viewers have already installed banned decoders, Mr Ikram said.

“Since the Cricket World Cup started, we only sold two receivers, which is nothing. We used to trade up to seven a day a few years back. This is all because of Dish TV,” Mr Ikram said.

A resident who lives on Electra Street in Abu Dhabi bought a decoder for Dh450. He said: “It costs 300 to 400 Indian rupees (Dh17.76 to Dh23.68) a month for watching more than 200 channels, while similar services in the UAE may cost over Dh200 a month.”

An Indian basic TV subscription package using an illegal decoder costs less than Dh10 a month, while a basic Etisalat package is Dh58 a month, he said.

A satellite dish trader on Electra Street quoted prices between Dh490 and Dh715 for a package that included an illegal decoder with two months of free viewing.

The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority and Abu Dhabi Municipality said the matter was not related to them, and the Department of Economic Development, Etisalat, du and OSN did not reply to repeated requests for comment.

anwar@thenational.ae

Updated: March 6, 2015 04:00 AM

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