Illegal subscriptions in the region rose 20% in '05

HONG KONG — Pay TV piracy has cost Asia a whopping $1.13 billion so far this year, 6% up on 2005, according to a study by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Assn. of Asia and Standard Chartered Bank.

The number of illegal subscriptions in the region rose 20% to 5.2 million connections.

The worst offender was India, with $685 million in losses to the industry.

Part of the problem lies with the thousands of different companies owning the last mile of cable pipes not declaring their full income.

Thailand saw the second highest loss with $160 million.

The country is a “regulatory vacuum” with no regulators helping with the piracy problem, says Lee Beasley, director of media and entertainment of the creative industries group at Standard Chartered.

Losses in Hong Kong jumped 29% with pirated cable connections and illegal set top boxes from China part of the problem.

The rise in piracy can partly be attributed to a spike in illegal connections for soccer World Cup action in the summer.

“We would like to see the Hong Kong government take a more proactive stance” and clamp down on public venues, says Simon Twiston Davies, Casbaa chief exec.

On the positive side, the number of pirated connections in Singapore fell from 9,500 to 6,900, giving back the industry nearly half a million dollars compared with the previous year.

The Philippines also saw a cut in illegal individual connections, however its net piracy cost from illegal distributors rose 24%.

While piracy is a clear loss to the industry, regional government also suffered with at least $158 million lost in annual taxes, according to the study.

Digital is the future of the industry, Twiston Davies says, adding that digital infrastructure puts in place more sophisticated technical barriers to theft.

The survey, the fourth conducted since 2002, covered Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as Australia and Macau, which were added this year.

China isn’t part of the study because it has a limited pay TV environment and the “cable industry is basically a utility,” says Twiston Davies.

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