OSN takes the high-definition route with a view to expand

Ben Flanagan

The television broadcaster OSN says it will add up to five high-definition (HD) channels this year as part of a plan to make its network HD-only by 2015.

Demand for better-quality TV viewing is one of the key drivers of growth in the industry, said David Butorac, the chief executive of OSN.

The pay-TV network last week said it had added MBC's seven high-definition channels, including MBC1 and the Al Arabiya news station.

OSN, based in Dubai, now has 26 stations broadcasting in HD - and Mr Butorac said it was planning to boost that number. "I suspect we'll have another four or five channels this year alone, and continue to expand. We'll probably add another sports HD channel in the near future," he said.

He did not elaborate on what channels would be added to the network. OSN currently has 100 stations - which Mr Butorac said could all become HD-only by 2015.

"We will continue to expand over the next two or three years, to convert the entire platform offering to HD," he said. "There's a huge upswing in the adoption of HD," he said.

"HD is unequivocally driving sales of television sets, and also viewer interest."

Mr Butorac said OSN would upgrade some of its standard stations to HD, as well as launch HD channels.

OSN also plans to launch a digital platform this month, which will allow subscribers to watch shows on smartphones, PCs and tablets.

"The platform will launch as 'OSN Play'. It will be available to the consumer later in February," Mr Butorac said. "The TV service will always be the predominate service. But OSN Play will add to that access on PC and laptop, on smartphones and on tablets."

OSN does not disclose the number of paying customers it has on its books.

But according to estimates by Informa Telecoms & Media, it has 552,000 subscribers, and this is forecast to grow to 995,000 by 2016. It charges subscribers monthly fees of Dh87 (US$23) to Dh349, depending on the number of channels they receive.