Rotana boss: 'Piracy is killing us'

Rotana has one of the highest-profile names in the Middle East and the Arab world generally. But the Mid-East’s “highly porous” regulatory regime is “killing the TV business” according to a senior Rotana executive.
Yousef Mugharbil, president of Rotana Digital Entertainment said: “For every dollars-worth of merchandise we sell, there’s another dollars-worth that goes to piracy.”

Mugharbil was speaking at Arab Advisors Group 5th media and telecommunications conference in Amman, Jordan. “You cannot operate any successful business model with piracy rates of that level. The pay-TV industry is massively hurt by piracy, as is the music industry, when you have no regulatory bodies prepared to enforce the rules against copying and piracy.”

Rotana, which is owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, in May launched a Fox Movies channel as a free-to-view service, and is promising more. The broadcaster is the number one brand when it comes to music, and has a growing reputation for launching popular TV channels.

Mugharbil says that viewers in the Middle East can pay less than US$200 to buy a set-top box that enables them to easily decode encrypted signals. “Given these facts I do not believe that pay-TV can be successful in our part of the world. Could pay-TV work here? Yes. But in the absence of any regulatory authority prepared to enforce the rules we do not see pay-TV working. We want governments to be much tougher.

We write to them. We make sure the various industry bodies chase them, and we have had some success in Saudi Arabia, but [anti-piracy policies] should be entrenched in every country and it seems to me that governments simply do not understand the damage piracy does. It seems governments and viewers take the approach that we make a lot of money so we can afford piracy theft. But it is theft, and the lost revenues could be ploughed back into our industries for everyone’s benefit.”