As of December 19, pirated OSN satellite television signals in the UAE and around the Middle East will be blocked, officials at the Pay TV network said.
An estimated five million illegal connections will be rendered powerless as OSN completes a roll out of unhackable new conditional-access technology aimed at ending piracy and boosting subscriber numbers, OSN CEO David Butorac told media on Monday.
"From the 19th we will be switching our signals to a form that is not pirated and will not be pirated [in the future]. In so doing, the illegal reception of our signals to receivers such as the Dreambox will cease," he said. "It is a great opportunity to welcome customers who enjoy watching us but who... resist the opportunity to pay us.
"Piracy is the single biggest issue for broadcasters," he added.
Pay-TV piracy is rampant across the region in spite of efforts by governments such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia to clamp down on the problem.
Butorac calculates the number of customers accessing pirated OSN content at five million, which he described as a conservative estimate.
At the moment, OSN signals can be picked up by cheap decoders connected to the internet or by hacking the codes on an original OSN card. In some parts of the Middle East, the content is also being redistributed by cable operators to multiple subscribers.
He said the new technology changes all that with more secure broadcast signals and new set-top "Showboxes" in every subscriber's home. Each new box is matched to a particular subscriber's card, he added, thus preventing proliferation.
He was unable to estimate the uptake in subscriptions expected following the switch, but said that the network has received a "significant" amount of calls since it began an on-air campaign informing viewers of the change on November 21.
From previous experience in other markets, he added, the uplift is as high as 100 per cent or as low as 20 per cent. "So we expect it to be in that range. I know there will be a significant uplift."
Existing customers with old decoder boxes can expect them to be replaced by December 19, he said, adding that boxes were currently being swapped free of charge at the rate of 1500 per day.
Butorac said the platform had invested a significant amount of money to ensure that every customer received a new box and that OSN was spending "tens of millions of dollars" to protect its content in an attempt to ensure the Pay-TV platform becomes as strong in the Middle East as it is elsewhere.
The new boxes are also configured with to provide high-definition content, with 12 new HD channels being offered free to the network's premium customers. December also sees the launch of 3D movies into homes.
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