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TV stations win war on piracy in Bahrain

Manama, April 17, 2011

Television stations are winning the war on pirate broadcasters in Bahrain who distribute satellite services at cut-price rates.

Providers of illegal Dreambox services in Bahrain say demand has plummeted following introduction of hi-tech encryption technology by major operators.

Orbit Showtime Network (OSN) switched to the new equipment in December, followed by Asian broadcaster Pehla last month.

Pirate broadcasters had built up a large subscriber base by linking digital receivers to the Internet, downloading codes and unscrambling satellite signals to provide customers with a range of satellite packages at a fraction of the normal cost.

However, they are now being forced to drive down their prices after admitting they were unable to hack into the secure signals.

'While an all-inclusive connection, including installation, used to cost anywhere between BD90 and BD120 with one year's subscription earlier, we now have no takers at even between BD60 and BD70,' said one operator on condition of anonymity.

'We are now exploring other options, but are not getting far.'

He said illegal providers were now facing a 'dilemma', since customers paid in advance for channels that pirate operators are no longer able to provide.

'We were all right to an extent with only OSN going off our networks since we could still count on Asian subscribers,' he added.

'But now even that is very irregular and there are several problems accessing signals.

'We are now facing a dilemma on what to do since we have taken subscription amounts in advance from our customers.'

Another operator said the loss of OSN and Pehla had been a big blow, since they were the most popular.

'Those are the ones who attract the bulk of our customers,' he added.

However, while pirate operators mourn the loss of their two biggest earners, OSN and Pehla are reporting an increase in subscribers as people sign up for their legitimate services.

'OSN can confirm that we have witnessed an increase of up to 300 per cent in key markets since securing the platform on December 19,' an OSN spokeswoman told the GDN from Dubai.

She said increased income from new customers meant the company could invest more in its content and services - with 3D channels now on the way.

'Some new shows have already taken off in the last few weeks and more high definition and 3D channels are in the pipeline,' she said.

Pehla introduced the secure technology right before the start of the Cricket World Cup last month, meaning Dreambox customers were unable to watch it.

'The Cricket World Cup was a good occasion to do this switch since it is watched by millions worldwide,' said Om Ramchandani, general manager of Pehla's Bahrain distributor Satlink.

'We have now had thousands of new customers who will stay with us.'

Pehla switched to new Viaccess technology and distributed new set-top boxes to its legitimate customers for the event, but some of its channels are still being broadcast using old technology - meaning they can be viewed through a Dreambox.

However, pirate broadcasters are expected to lose all Pehla channels in a matter of weeks.

'There are some channels intermittently available on the old technology, but this will completely stop in the next few weeks,' said Ramchandani.

Pehla offers Indian and Pakistani entertainment to thousands of subscribers in Bahrain and the other GCC countries.

The first a crackdown on Dreambox operators was launched in Bahrain in October 2009, when the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) - in collaboration with the then Culture and Information Ministry - instructed the country's 17 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of illegal operators.

However, pirate broadcasters were able to bypass those measures within two months.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Piracy | TRA | law | Satellite | Broadcasting | cable TV | Television stations |

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