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told The National. “We pay a chunk of money six months to a year after the films come out,” he said, and “they beat our window and pay nothing.” That these channels are then selling advertising around this illegal content was a trend that Barnett described as “disturbing”. Reports also suggest that alongside these examples of piracy, over 1 million set-top boxes are imported illegally into the GCC every year, providing another potential route for the consumption of premium content. Some of these are sold by vendors, whilst others are brought in by people coming back from the Indian subcontinent. “What happens,” David Butorac, Chief Executive Officer at OSN has explained, “is that people with legitimate subscriptions in India bring over their set-top boxes and watch these channels here.” Given that subscriptions in the sub-continent are typically cheaper, this makes sense for consumers, but it does mean that because viewers are not subscribing to region specific services, and potential revenues of MENA’s media companies can be hit hard. Impact It’s estimated that although 27 million households across the Middle East and Northern Africa have access to pay TV services, fewer than seven million are actually paying for those services. Not surprisingly, this impacts on the business models of TV operators, as they are unable to track the true viewing numbers or they see them diluted by content being offered elsewhere. In an environment where advertising sales and subscriptions are the primary sources of income, this sort of audience erosion can clearly affect the bottom line. Barnett has stressed the potential scale of the problem by highlighting how MBC2 slipped out of the rankings of the 20 mostwatched channels in Egypt as a result of illegal retransmission of films. But, following the recent closure of about 15 of the biggest copyright infringing channels in the country, the MBC movie service bounced back to number six in the rankings. The impact of piracy “is costing broadcasters tens of millions of dollars,” Butorac agrees. In total, he estimates, the region loses about Dh1.8 million to pirated material a year, with illegal operators impacting on opportunities to invest in up-and-coming creative talent, as well as the purchasing of premium content like movies and sports. For global players the stakes can be even higher. Over 17 million copies of James

Cameron’s movie Avatar were pirated in 2010 alone, whilst in 2012 it is estimated that over 4 million episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones were downloaded illegally. As Qatar increasingly becomes home to a number of creative rights holders, like beIN sports, this issue will become one of bigger concern; especially as the impact of this illegal activity can leave less money to invest in new services and jobs. Analysis from Dataxis suggests that as a result of signal piracy, black market usage of subscribers for beIN Sports in Algeria is estimated at three times the total official beIN Sport Arabia subscriber numbers. beIN Sports has also attracted a lot of media coverage in this space for other reasons too, following a series of ‘black outs’ related to their coverage of English Premier League football matches. The cause? Online piracy of these live transmissions. According to Rachael Hammond, an Associate in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications team at the Middle East based laywers Al Tamimi & Company, the English Premier League detected and removed more than 45,000 illegal internet streams of its matches in 2013 - 2014 football season alone. It is estimated that these streams impacted UK rights holders to the tune of over £10 million, nevermind the cost to legitimate (and legitimately disgruntled) beIN subscribers in the MENA region who found their access blocked due to activity happening in another part of the world.

TOP 10 PIRATED TV SHOWS OF LAST YEAR, RANKED BY NUMBER OF WORLDWIDE TORRENT DOWNLOADS

1. GAME OF THRONES 48.369 MILLION (HBO) 2. THE WALKING DEAD 47.642 MILLION (AMC) 3. THE BIG BANG THEORY 33.431 MILLION (CBS) 4. ARROW 29.296 MILLION (CW) 5. THE VAMPIRE DIARIES 22.921 MILLION (CW) 6. SUPERNATURAL 21.201 MILLION (CW) 7. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER 20.282 MILLION (CBS) 8. AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 16.334 MILLION (ABC) 9. SUITS 14.910 MILLION (USA NETWORK) 10. THE BLACKLIST 14.211 MILLION (NBC)

Solutions Given the scale of this problem, the onus is on rights holders, regulators and ISPs to work together to identify potential remedies. This won’t necessarily be easy, given that globally 95% of online music downloads are illegal, and the average mobile, iPod, or tablet is believed to contain around $800 worth of pirated content. Moreover, in a separate study, 52% on nonsubscribers in MENA cited the availability of free-possibly pirated-content as a reason not to pay for TV subscription services. Interested parties may therefore have to deploy a number of different tools include a range of remedies to address these issues. One solution involves introducing more flexible, and potentially cheaper, pricing models. Understandably it’s not necessarily a route that many media players want to go down, but evidence does suggest that some audiences are willing to pay for content if QATAR TODAY > APRIL 2015 > 83

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Qatar Today April 2015  

Human Capital: The New Order Qatar’s HR sector moves away from the norm and plays a far wider, though unique, role specific to the cultural...

Qatar Today April 2015  

Human Capital: The New Order Qatar’s HR sector moves away from the norm and plays a far wider, though unique, role specific to the cultural...

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