Piracy is eroding pay TV market

Cable piracy has “totally eroded” the pay television market in Lebanon and is costing operators millions of dollars in lost revenue across the region, according to the Motion Picture Association.

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By  Tim Addington Published  August 21, 2005

Cable piracy has “totally eroded” the pay television market in Lebanon and is costing operators millions of dollars in lost revenue across the region, according to the Motion Picture Association. John Malcolm, the worldwide anti-piracy director at the MPA, which represents major Hollywood studios such as Buena Vista, Sony Pictures, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Brothers, said authorities in some Middle Eastern countries were not doing enough to combat DVD piracy and satellite signal theft, which is jeopardising future investment in the region. It is estimated that pay TV operators such as Showtime, Orbit and ART lost more than US$25 million last year from 35,000 homes in the GCC illegally accessing pay TV. As well as Lebanon, compounds in Saudi Arabia are a hotbed of cable piracy, with pay TV being redistributed through a network of internal cabling systems, with the masterminds behind it often charging users the same fee as pay TV operators. “We have seen cable piracy surface in most of the Middle Eastern countries,” said Malcolm, during a visit to Dubai last week. He said piracy was evident in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and, to a very large degree, in Lebanon and Egypt. “In Lebanon cable piracy has totally eroded the entire market. It is of concern not only to pay TV, but to the MPA as well.” Scott Butler, head of the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance, a pressure group that is funded by pay TV operators and other copyright owners, said that enforcement action by authorities across the region varies widely. “In Kuwait there has been a lot of cable piracy but fortunately the authorities have acted and made raids against pirates who have been criminally charged. “We would like to see more stronger penalties applied in court, but we are happy that they are taking action.” He said that government officials in Oman were not active in investigating or prosecuting DVD and cable pirates. Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait are currently on the Intellectual Property Alliance’s priority Watch List, while Saudi Arabia is on the standard Watch List. The UAE was taken off the list in 2000 following efforts to clamp down on piracy.

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