x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

OSN blames rival for TV sport blackout in the UAE

Sports fans have been unable since Friday to watch the beIN Sports range of channels, which includes football matches from the Barclays Premier League in England, on OSN set-top boxes.

OSN viewers will have to buy a new set-top box to watch Premier League football. Ben Stansall / AFP Photo
OSN viewers will have to buy a new set-top box to watch Premier League football. Ben Stansall / AFP Photo

ABU DHABI // The head of broadcaster OSN launched an attack on rival beIN Sports on Wednesday as it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of viewers will have to buy new set-top boxes to continue watching big sports events.

Sports fans have been unable since Friday to watch the beIN Sports range of channels, which includes football matches from the Barclays Premier League in England, on OSN set-top boxes.

After initially telling viewers who complained that it was investigating a technical issue, OSN finally admitted on Wednesday that the only solution was to buy a new set-top box for the beIN Sports viewing card. “Unfortunately, there is nothing OSN can do,” the broadcaster said on Twitter.

In an interview with a Dubai radio station, the OSN chief executive David Butorac placed the blame for the debacle squarely at the door of beIN Sports, the Qatari broadcaster that used to be called Al Jazeera Sports.

Mr Butorac said the problems originated from concerns over the piracy of televised Premier League games from England.

“BeIN Sports are in the process of doing the swap of their systems to upgrade them to be more secure, and in so doing they have literally switched off hundreds of thousands of customers,” he said.

“Unfortunately, on Friday, these changes were done completely out of the blue and the end result was that those who have paid a subscription are no longer able to receive the signal they paid for.

“OSN faced a similar issue back in 2009 and we invested $60 million to give new boxes free to our customers.

“There is a right way and wrong way to do this. We paid the price, we gave customers a new box in 2009. They are doing it the wrong way by switching the customer off and expecting customers to buy a new box.”

Cooperation between broadcasters must improve, he said. “When it comes to the technology we shouldn’t be competitive, we should collaborate to ensure consumers can receive all those channels on one box.

“Unfortunately we have yet to be able to encourage some of the other platforms to see the benefit of operating on a single box.

ksinclair@thenational.ae