Piracy booms, Indian channels bleed

The popularity of Indian soap operas and television shows in the Asia-Pacific region has turned piracy into a booming industry. Cashing in on the craze for serials from Zee, Sony, Star and other channels, local broadcasters are beaming these illegally into homes in Afghanistan.
Tarun Mehra, territory head, Zee International Business, said the company has been monitoring such illegal practices in some countries in the Asia-Pacific region. This is blatant violation of intellectual property rights (IPR), he added.
“There are some channels who legitimately buy our content to show it on their network. However, evidence gathered by our team has shown that Afghan TV is misusing our content and making financial gains from it,” said Mehra.
The spokesperson for Star TV did not comment on the issue while Sony and Colors could not be reached. Officials from the Afghan embassy in Mumbai had not responded to DNA’s questions till the time of going to print.
The Afghan TV pirates have a carefully thought out business model. Popular television content is procured by downloading it using a direct-to-home box. This is followed by dubbing the shows in the local language (Pashto) and then beaming it on their network.
Afghan TV, sources said, operates primarily with Indian content. Broadcasters say serious money is being lost in the process.
“Estimating that a 30-minute soap can be sold anywhere between $200 and $400, loss of potential revenue in case of every such soap works to around $100,000 per annum. On a conservative estimate, the overall loss of revenue due to piracy of GEC content for all Indian players can be anything upwards of $2 million,” said Mehra.
Zee has taken up the matter with the Afghan Embassy and will pursue it with industry bodies and the government to regularise this stream.
Losses due to piracy are not restricted to Afghanistan alone. Many other countries blatantly violate Indian entertainment content. Experts said piracy has gained momentum in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Middle-East too.
While it wasn’t that big a phenomenon earlier, the practice has picked up significantly in the last few years. Based on Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia estimates, broadcasters peg the overall losses from piracy in 2010 to be over Rs 9,000 crore.
An annual pay-TV piracy survey of 15 Asia-Pacific markets conducted by the association in 2009 estimated annual revenue loss of $1.94 billion while the annual pay-TV revenue leakage in Asia in 2008 was estimate to be $1.75 billion.