Dubai-based pay-TV operator OSN’s CEO David Butorac, speaking at IBC, said that despite the challenges of piracy in his region, and fierce competition from the 750 or so local free-to-air channels, OSN was working hard to expand its 59 HD channels and would launch its first 4K/Ultra-HD channel early next year.
Butorac explained that OSN feeds its signals to 24 markets currently, and had more in its targets especially in Africa. He told IBC delegates that smart phone ownership in his Gulf markets was already more than 100 percent, while Saudi Arabia was the world’s heaviest users of social media on a per-capita basis. “Our markets are heavy viewers of TV, with more than 7 hours a day of viewing typically, and growing at 6 per cent annually.”
He said that broadcasting in the MENA region was not without its challenges, not least censorship. “A free-to-air transmission of the Wolf of Wall Street saw about 40 per cent of the movie cut. We cut just a few moments.
He admitted that “library services” such as Netflix did pose a threat “but as broadcasters we have to keep pace with the challenges”.
However, he was highly critical of some of his local competitors not least the Qatari-funded finances behind the recent exclusive rights to the English Premier League football, which he said was not even put to competitive tender, “and the gossip is that they paid $500 million, when [the rights] were barely worth $100 million.”
“Piracy is also leeching cash and jobs out of the region, but the authorities are beginning to realise this.”