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Tue 12 Jan 2016 10:52 AM

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David Butorac, CEO of OSN: The future of TV begins now

Unique content creation and savvy technology platforms are now truly global phenomena.

David Butorac, CEO of OSN: The future of TV begins now

As industry competition goes, pay-TV networks have never had it easy.

Look at the competitive landscape to start with. Pay-TV cut through the clutter of free-to-air channels and defined its inherent strength in an environment where the only other player was literally free for all.

The success of the pay-TV business model, undoubtedly, has been its focus on delivering premium content. And today, more people demand better and exclusive content. In 2014, subscription services accounted for more than half the global TV revenue, a trend that continued through 2015. 

Just when the pay-TV industry seemed to have consolidated its triumph over ‘free content’, it found the market landscape shifting again – this time, with the rising popularity of free and paid content online.

If retaining the ‘cord-cutters’, who tended to abandon TV subscription, was yesterday’s challenge, today the task is to attract the ‘cord-nevers’, an increasing population of youth who would rather get all their content on their smartphones or laptops than crowd in the living room for ‘family TV’.

With over 200 million young people in the Middle East and North Africa region below the age of 25 years, the long-term growth of the pay-TV sector – and indeed the television industry itself - depends on how we can shape the entertainment experience to suit youth aspirations.

Sadly though, even new entrants to the pay-TV sector tend to focus on content aggregation – the role that free-to-air channels have been playing with zero imagination for years now. Amassing channels that beam worn-out content will only add to TV clutter, not real choices for customers.

At OSN, we believe that the game changer will be defined by two tangible factors: unique content creation and savvy technology platforms.

That is what OSN has been investing in through 2015. We have made our most significant long-term commitments in global partnerships so that during 2016 we can deliver an unmatched roster of exclusive and top-notch content for our subscribers.

When referring to subscribers, we also mean the ‘cord-nevers’, the youth population that has never before paid for television. Furthermore, we are not waiting for them to come to us; we are taking their choice of TV right to their smartphones and laptops.

Our digital platforms, Go and OSN Play, have recorded their fastest growth rates in 2015, as we increasingly meet the TV choices of a growing base of young subscribers.

At the same time, we also brought our youth back to the living rooms. In an industry-first, we launched the first digital video store in the region, the OSN Store. With this new technology platform, we are bringing the latest movies screening at cinemas inside your living rooms, at the very same time.

I believe that 2016 will be the year that pay-TV proves unequivocally that linear television is here to stay. OSN’s exclusive partnerships with HBO, Warner, Paramount, Disney, Sony, NBCUniversal, Fox, WWE, Eagle Films and Gulf Film, among others, will bring the widest roster of first-access and exclusive content to our subscribers.

This emphasis on delivering cutting edge TV content is global. Perhaps unparalleled in history, we are now seeing the largest profusion of top-notch film talent actively engaged in television.

The biggest show of 2016 will be a Martin Scorsese series for HBO called Vinyl about the music industry in New York in the 1970s. More than ever before, now is the vibrant time for content and that is driving the continued acceleration of television.

But OSN is going one step further. We are not only bringing same-minute access to premium programming, we are also localising and commissioning original content.

This year, we are rolling out over six new channels, including one dedicated to Arabic cinema. With a slew of initiatives, we are defining our clear space both in linear and digital.

No doubt, there will be intense competition, especially in the digital space, where new players are eager to rush in to leverage a level playing field that OSN has built over the years through our unrelenting fight against content piracy.

But I can say with total conviction that the decisive factor in shaping the future of TV in the region will not be price; it will be the value that any network, traditional or digital, can provide.

And with our outstanding content line-up and innovative tech platforms, OSN has already secured that ‘value space’.

David Butorac, CEO of OSN.