Orbit Showtime Network (OSN), the Dubai-based pay-TV operator, says it is seeking a 25 per cent growth in subscribers this year. OSN’s new CE, David Butorac, appointed last September and replacing Marc-Antoine d’Halluin, admitted in a local interview that piracy had been a major problem for operators in the region. Butorac started out his TV career as a cameraman and included time as head of operations at BSkyB before going on to Malaysia’s Astro and Australia’s WIN Corp.
Two years ago, after suffering massive losses, Orbit and Showtime merged their operations into a new holding company, Panther Media Group to operate OSN as a partnership on behalf of Mawarid Holdings (the Orbit portion) and KIPCO (Showtime).
The largest step in moving OSN into progress is the ending of pirate viewing of its signals. Butorac says that up to 1.5 million illegal boxes and pirate systems were operating throughout the Mid-East. That ended in December last year, helped by a new version Humax decoder and Irdeto 3 encryption.
“We’ve seen our daily sales increase by up to 300 per cent across the region. It varies between 250 and 300 per cent, market by market but we have seen a phenomenal uplift in our sales and that will continue,” Butorac told Arabian Business.
Helping growth is the recent launch of a channel devoted to showing blockbuster movies for Saudi Arabian viewers. There are no cinemas in Saudi Arabia. “2011 is the year that our company takes off. Multi-channel television has come of age in this region,” he says. “We would expect to grow our subscriber base by about 25 per cent and that will continue to accelerate. We will rapidly reach the point where we achieve a financial security that allows us to be the biggest and best,” he continued.
However, the broadcaster has to face some notable challenges, notably the growing strength of free-to-air broadcasting in the area. Also not helping matters is the lack of premium sport on OSN. Most top-flight sport, including the English Premier League, has been acquired by rival broadcasters in Abu Dhabi or Qatar.