MENA execs warn of online piracy threat

Industry executives have spoken out against the threat of online piracy to pay-TV operations in the MENA region.

Participating in a panel session at IBC Content Everywhere in Dubai on how the MENA TV industry is adapting to the Content Everywhere revolution, Abdul Hadi Al Sheikh, executive director of television at Abu Dhabi Media, stressed the importance of educating viewers of the impact of illegally streaming content. “Internet providers can do more on the issue and block pirated content but, at the end of the day, we need a cultural change in the mindset of people in the region,” he averred. “Regulators can also play more of a role but, unfortunately due to the nature of the situation in the region, I don’t think it is a high priority for many counties,” he suggested.

David Butorac, the chief executive of OSN, sought to dispel the misconception that illegally downloading premium content or streaming live sport was a victimless crime. “That is not the case,” he stated. “If you look at the fact that it costs about US$120 million to produce the Netflix series House of Cards, then the company needs to get a return on that investment otherwise, what is the point of making more content?”

He called on video-sharing site YouTube to do more in terms of IP protection. “You don’t get pornography on YouTube because it is blocked. The same should be done to prevent other intellectual property, like Hollywood films being shown.”

Khalifa Al Shamsi, chief digital services officer for Etisalat, echoed Abdul Hadi Al Sheikh’s comments. “There is a real need for the industry to educate people,” he declared, revealing that every morning during the ongoing Asia Cup football tournament, he received WhatsApp messages with links to where people could watch games illegally. “I replied to my friend telling him this is wrong and to watch it through beIN Sports but he said it was easier to just stream it from elsewhere. That is the kind of attitude we need to change,” he asserted.

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