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Mon 13 Jul 2009 06:39 PM

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Orbit chief urges piracy blitz

TV company president and CEO calls for tough action on satellite channel cheats.

Orbit chief urges piracy blitz

The head of Pay TV provider Orbit on Monday urged telecom regulators to crack down on piracy in the Middle East after labelling satellite channel cheats as criminals.

Samir Abdulhadi, president and CEO of the Bahrain-based company, made the comments during a press briefing for Orbit’s merger with Dubai rival Showtime

He said people using ‘dream boxes’ or illegal cards to access Orbit and Showtime channels without subscriptions were ruining the Middle East’s reputation.

“I tell them one message, you are aiding and spreading crime; this is an offence,” he said.

“To the regulatory authorities I say it’s time to ensure that the intellectual property rights are protected and it’s time that the region takes steps to ensure that piracy is killed.

“The region is developing an extremely bad name in the world and we do not need that. These people behind piracy are criminals; they could be funding drugs, criminal activities of all kind and we do not need such people in the region.”

Piracy has cost pay TV providers in this region up to hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Showtime CEO Marc-Antoine d’Halluin.

He also said pirates were insulting cultural sensitivities by helping provide access to officially blocked pornographic content across the Middle East.

While authorities had previously done little to deter pirates, the newly-merged pay TV providers would tackle perpetrators head on, d’Halluin added.

“A segment that has grown in the last few years is the one that uses piracy cards to receive paid TV,” he said. “The new company will very clearly address these issues as its number one priority.

“We are already in several initiatives in the UAE with telecom regulator TRA to block servers, but we will have more ammunition in the future. That will take a chunk of the market back to paid TV, which today is really exploited by criminal organisations.”

“There is an alignment building between the authorities and us as Pay TV [providers] to regulate far better the market. There are still steps to take place and regulations that exist today need to be put in motion, with punishments that are implemented for criminal organisations when we manage to raid and seize their activities.”

He added accessing Showtime and Orbit content would prove far more difficult for satellite TV pirates.

The joint company, which d’Halluin will head as CEO, hopes to increase pay TV’s market share from 10 to 20 percent by 2014. It is understood that free-to-air providers in the region have proved more popular with Middle Eastern residents than pay TV platforms.

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GH 11 years ago

Can't set-top boxes in the UAE be 'linked' to a specific smart card to prevent illegal access? That seems standard practice elsewhere in the world. Also, Abdulhadi's comments take on a slight tinge of irony following the announcement of the merger. Now that they've taken care of the 'opposition', of course they're going to tackle the pirates ...

dphil 11 years ago

If the biggies at Show Time really want to kill piracy, why dont you make the offering cost effective for the almost 40 million people in the GCC and God knows how many more in Africa !!! I enjoyed pirated set boxes for almost a year, till my conscience took control and had to dump it regretably, but i still cant afford the pay channels !!! In the asian countries 100's of channels are offered for a very low cost thereby eliminating all possibilities of any piracy, which is why i think this part of the world is still immature in their thinking !!!

Harry Barracuda 11 years ago

"Package and upgrade details will be announced shortly, however, you can now view additional premium channels for free!". Orbit have NOTHING to which I want to "upgrade". So if Showtime try putting their prices up for this rubbish, they can swing.

Wiley Dozis 11 years ago

If they've merged, it's time to get rid of the dead wood. It would seem this person is a prime candidate. I don't know people who pirate signals that bother watching Orbit when it's FREE! He should take responsibility for ruining Orbit and resign.

Engineer 11 years ago

The reason they're losing so much market share to the "piraters" is because their prices are so high. It costs so much to get the basic package for Showtime, and their comedy channel has become crap. They've lost any kind of real comedy or sit-coms and have resorted to showing cheap british and australian shows, or *old* US re-runs that belong in a museum. If Showtime/Orbit want to fight piracy the first thing they should do is bring down their prices, and then focus on their program line ups.