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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 February 2021

Thwart piracy by viewer choice

Netflix began offering a limited version of its streaming content in the UAE in January.
Netflix began offering a limited version of its streaming content in the UAE in January.

Not all that long ago, television viewers were entirely dependent on the broadcasters for what they watched. The closest thing to self-determination came from having a videocassette recorder, so a viewer could watch their desired show when it suited rather than when the broadcasters scheduled it.

Those restrictive days seem like the distant past now, particularly since the advent of pirate sites that allow illicit copies of movies and television programmes to be downloaded free. Like their colleagues in the music industry, broadcasters initially tried to resist this disruption of their monopoly before accepting the inevitable and embracing services that allowed users to stream programmes for a modest monthly fee.

Netflix is the best known of those streaming services and since launching in the United States in 2007, it has gained tens of millions of subscribers. A UAE version of Netflix began operating in January as part of an expansion that now reaches 190 countries, but with a much more restricted range of programmes compared with the US service.

This led many expatriates based here to access the US version by using virtual private networks, or VPNs, but Netflix is cracking down on this practice and blocking customers’ accounts in their countries of origin. Understandably, this has angered those users.

The policy runs counter to the only successful response to the threat posed by piracy – if viewers are offered what they want to watch for a modest price, most will do the right thing and pay rather than illegally stream content. As the music industry found through iTunes, it is better to have a reduced income from their content than to lose it all to the pirates.

This is a complicated issue because some content is exclusively licensed to Netflix’s competitors here but attempts to protect revenue will ultimately prove to be a failing strategy. Giving viewers what they want remains the best way to thwart the pirates.

Published: March 9, 2016 04:00 AM