OSN pursuing French rights in bid to boost North Africa business

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The Dubai-based TV broadcaster OSN is in talks to acquire rights to air French channels as it looks to grow its business in North Africa.

The pay-TV network, the largest in the Middle East and North Africa, reported a 30 percent increase in subscribers during 2012.

But its main customer base is in the GCC region, and the majority of growth was driven by new customers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

David Butorac, the chief executive of OSN, said that the network is now in discussions with French channel owners to help the service appeal to more viewers in North Africa.

“We are looking to expand our French-language offering. We’re in discussion with channels that emanate from France in relation to distribution in the region,” Butorac told Al Arabiya.

“From Morocco all the way through to Libya, there are countries that will be opportunities. We aim to expand our services in all those markets.”

OSN currently broadcasts some French films but does not have any dedicated French channels.

Butorac declined to quantify the number of channels OSN is in discussion with, or which broadcasters are involved.

He says he expects that Saudi Arabia will continue to be the “biggest area of growth for us”, despite the push into North Africa.

The Middle East and North Africa television industry is dominated by free-to-air satellite viewing, with only a fraction of consumers paying to receive channels.

According to the Arab Media Outlook, pay-TV revenues were forecast at $540 million in 2012, compared with $1.98 billion in advertising on mainly free-to-air channels.

Butorac said that the Arab Media Outlook’s estimate was too low.

“I believe that the total TV revenues are significantly higher than the $540 million,” he said. “Our estimate is that OSN generates around 65 percent of all pay-TV revenues in the region… We certainly believe there is very high potential for growth in TV in the region.”

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