Piracy threat during Ramadan

Last year, more than 80 per cent of newly-released Arabic musalsalat landed on pirate websites, according to new research

By Justin Harper

Last year, close to 200 brand new Arabic Series were released in April for consumption during Ramadan. The budget for producing and marketing these tradeable video assets collectively was estimated to be around half a billion dollars.

The B2C subscription video on demand (SVOD) distribution of many of these high-value video assets, or musalsalat, (Arabic for series), are controlled by only a few platforms like Shahid, WatchIt!, OSN, TOD and Jawwy.

However, more than 80 per cent of these Arabic newly-released musalsalat landed on pirate websites, affecting the profitability of the entire Arabic Content production ecosystem.

Research was carried out by Dubai- based Arabic specialised content consultancy HConsult.me, which joined forces with Vestigit, a Poland-based media security company. Their study covered the impact of piracy on Arabic series released during last Ramadan TV season starting 1st April 2022.

Heba Korayem, content market and distribution specialist, Arabic Speaking MENA Region,  HConsult.me, said regional platforms do invest in antipiracy software but the observed trend is that they seem to save these protection resources for the assets where strict international copyright clauses are enforced, such as for protecting expensive sports streams or valuable western studio releases.

The analysis highlighted the top 10 Arabic pirate websites, which alone were responsible for delivering 40 per cent of the traffic of all illegally-consumed peak season releases.

According to a URL traffic tracking tool, each of these websites in Ramadan received between 1.2 million to 2.5 million visits: eyeballs that are there specifically to watch those Arabic releases.

This translates to around 15 million valuable ad impressions that could have been harboured by legitimate OTT services.

The URL traffic tracker revealed an expected trend: the top three countries contributing to this piracy traffic are the population-dense countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

“But the unusual observation is that almost a third of the countries contributing to piracy traffic of those Arabic Ramadan drama series are western countries like Germany, the UK, the US – where advertising CPM values are up to 20 times higher,” Korayem added.

“The bigger problem isn’t just the million so dollars that pirates are making from Arabic content illegally consumed abroad. It’s the fact that these eyeballs from abroad are significant but aren’t measurable. We can’t use them as evidence for success or a basis for financial projections; consequently hindering our efforts to attract foreign investment in Arabic content.”