With consumers across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) becoming more connected and tech-savvy than ever before, the complex issue of content piracy is showing no sign of letting up, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).
The global ICT consulting firm asserts that the use of illegal set-top boxes, unauthorised VPN subscriptions, and torrent downloads has become so rife across MEA that they now pose a serious threat to the region’s legitimate ecosystem of production, acquisition, delivery, and commercialisation.
“At IDC, we believe that illegal content transmission within MEA costs the industry in excess of $750 million in lost revenue every single year,” says Tracey Grant, the firm’s programme manager for digital media and broadcasting in MEA. “Sitting at the heart of the problem is the ‘laissez faire’ consumer mindset that characterizes much of the region, with large sections of the population viewing content piracy as entirely socially acceptable and as a victimless crime.
“It is an incredibly ingrained and difficult mindset to overcome, and represents the single biggest challenge facing industry stakeholders looking to bring the practice under control.
“It is clear then that the consumer mindset toward piracy across the region needs to change,” Grant adds. “This will certainly not be easy to achieve, but there is scope to educate the market in an attempt to alter the region’s prevailing attitudes. A key area of focus for consumer education should be the damage that piracy causes to local industries. In this regard, it is a simple matter of return on investment, because if an industry is not properly protected, growth is inevitably restricted and the cost of innovation and production becomes prohibitively high.
“There is considerable demand in the region for more localised content, but consumers must understand that such content comes at a price,” she adds.
“If the content created by independent production houses is continuously pirated and made available for free via illegitimate channels, those same independent production houses will simply cease to make the content that the region’s consumers have long been crying out for. As such, there is a pressing need to educate consumers on the damage that piracy inflicts on the ability of the region to develop and sustain a truly viable ecosystem of local production.”