Showtime Mid-East suffers viewer backlash
Chris Forrester
Sunday, 15 November 2009 06:18

A week ago (on Nov 9) we reported on the piracy problems Showtime Middle East was suffering in Bahrain (and elsewhere in the Gulf) from users of the ‘Dreambox’ card-sharing technology. Marc-Antoine d’Halluin, CEO of Orbit-Showtime, claimed that piracy was endemic in his region, and that the pay-TV broadcaster was fighting “for its survival”.

The local Gulf Daily News has since published letters from viewers. One viewer who claims he is a legitimate Showtime subscriber issues a strong warning to Mr d’Halluin, saying: “If Showtime loses the rights to Premiership football in May, which may then go to Abu Dhabi Television, I will be cancelling my subscription at once, and I'm sure a lot of other subscribers will do as well, as it's the only thing we really watch on the Orbit Showtime platform. The former Orbit bouquet in particular, for which Mr d'Halluin is responsible, is absolutely appalling. Having it on demand or in high definition isn't going to make a bit of difference to the quality on offer! What the television industry needs to do is open up international markets and stop cross-border protectionism. I would rather buy a Sky Sports Italia box and card, which has all the sport, movies and news that I require, but it is illegal to do so. So, as long as you continue to thrust rubbish at us and expect us to pay premium rates for it, then you can really have no complaints if we look elsewhere. Where is Rupert Murdoch when you need him? Surely there is a market for Sky Arabia?”

Another, (“John H”) says Mr d'Halluin should recall that the reason most people in Bahrain go for a Dreambox is for the price and not for the willingness to break the law, as he puts it. “How can you possibly compare getting all the channels for BD40 a year, while you have to pay for Orbit and Showtime alone? Most people who subscribe to Dreambox service have low wages to begin with, many under BD300 per month. They can't afford to have 10% of their monthly wages going to TV. Let the [TV] companies reduce their prices (Batelco [the local telephone company] has reduced its rates many times over the past few years), and the piracy will die down by itself. Reducing your prices does not necessarily mean a reduction in profits (which is the ultimate goal of any company).”