Saudi worst media pirates in Mid-East
Chris Forrester

Saudi Arabia is one of the worst transgressors in the Middle East for media and TV piracy, says a new study from Inform Telecoms*. The country has “widespread pirate distribution of pay TV via both cable and DTH.”

The report says the problem is particularly evident in compounds [where family groups tend to live] where a DTH smartcard is acquired centrally then used by the management of the compound to provide pay TV services to hundreds “or even thousands of homes via internal cable systems”. The problem is difficult to tackle because the “owners of the compounds are very influential”, meaning there is little government action against piracy. The country is also home to most of the region’s illegal disc replicators, says the study.

Saudi Arabia is not alone. The Lebanon is notorious for its country-wide illegal distribution of satellite TV (via local cable systems) while Egypt is famous for its ‘informal’ redistribution of pay-TV and broadband.

Piracy is damaging the already-tenuous hold that legitimate pay-TV operators have on their clients. “Pay TV growth is restricted by the ongoing popularity of free-to-air (FTA) satellite channels. The vast number of FTA channels makes it difficult for legitimate pay platforms to establish themselves. Their rise has also promoted a cultural mindset that expects to receive a wide range of TV services without payment. This perception has also assisted the rise of piracy in the region. While most countries are at least making cursory attempts to tackle the problem, anti-piracy body the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) believes problems exist across the majority of the region,” says Informa.

“The Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance has highlighted the growing grey market, where DTH platforms from outside the region are illegally sold within it. The Alliance estimates that there are 60,000 illegal ‘subscribers’ to India’s Dish TV in the Middle East. These subs pay US$13 per month for what would cost US$140 per month across the legal Middle East platforms. Similarly, South Africa’s DStv has an estimated 40,000-70,000 illegal users in the region. They pay US$50 per month for what would cost US$140 per month from the legal platforms.”

Signal theft is a major problem in several countries. This practice includes illegal redistribution, decoder piracy, smart card piracy and the grey market. Other piracy problems include optical disc replication and Internet downloads – especially of TV programs that are yet to air.