MEED: In what languages is OSN seeking more content?
Our acquisition of [Pehla Media & Entertainment] stems from a desire to enter the South Asian market to ensure we can provide a quality of service that appeals to the significant numbers of people originating from South Asia, whether expatriates or people who have formed their family residence in the Middle East.
The community here is, by and large, also proficient in English so we cater to them through a combination of the worlds best English-language entertainment, our relationships with all of the Hollywood studios and the acquisition of the South Asian market.
There is a huge desire even in the Arabic-speaking world to watch Bollywood. It was an obvious synergy for us to grow across the region, [since the Indian subcontinent] has one of the largest language diasporas in the region.
What efforts are you making to fight piracy?
We are fighting piracy on two fronts; one is technology. In 2010, OSN undertook a complete swap of its base. We spent $60m swapping every set-top box in our base so that the conditional access system is secure. We now have an uncompromised platform. That was a significant step towards the networks rapid growth.
The second front is working through regulatory hurdles to ensure we can protect intellectual property. As a broadcast industry, weve had some significant successes in recent months in encouraging satellite providers to take down the content they were broadcasting that they did not have the intellectual property for, because it amounted to stealing.
Particularly, satellite providers such as Nilesat, Norsat and Gulfsat have taken a leadership position to ensure we can remove from transmission content that is illegally being distributed.
What types of sports content does OSN plan to offer?
If you want to win the hearts of South Asian viewers, you have to air cricket, and we now have all cricket content. We are also the home of golf, covering almost every tournament, and we have a significant position in rugby. We will invest in sport to continue to grow the appeal of our sports services, but what we will not do is invest money that is uneconomic in the acquisition of rights.
Sadly, particularly for international football rights in this region, for several years the rights costs have escalated to where they are significantly uneconomic. The expansion, particularly with the state-backed broadcasters, in the acquisition of rights has been beyond the ability of return. Weve seen that in the past few weeks with the allocation of the English Premier League rights. The process is, I think, idiosyncratic; its impossible to discern what was actually paid, but Im very confident it was significantly less than what was paid last time.
How important is it to offer different technologies?
High-definition (HD) is a very significant driver. We currently have 36 HD channels on our platform and we will continue to expand. In this region, digital media distribution is something that could be of a competitive nature to our distribution means, but we see it as an opportunity. People will still watch TV in increasing amounts, but they will also want to sample content through a tablet or smartphone.