Approximately $300,000 worth of possible tax revenue to the Government is being lost on a yearly basis because customers are buying Android boxes instead of becoming paid television subscribers, DirecTV general manager Bernard Pantin says. He estimates there could be as many as 80,000 Android boxes currently in the country.
Pantin made the claim at a conference titled “Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement: Video Content Piracy” hosted by Alianza at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
Android boxes allow users to stream content from the Internet and are sold with pre-installed software which sometimes allow content to be streamed illegally. And this piracy is where the problem lies. The boxes can be purchased at some retail stores around the country and their prevalence is said to be impacting the revenue for subscription television, which has been dwindling in recent times.
Annie Baldeo, of the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT), said revenue for paid television fell from $183 million in the last quarter of 2016 to $164 million in the first quarter of 2017. One of the reasons for the declining revenue was the increase in Android box usage, Baldeo said.
“There is a new free kid in town – the Android boxes, you never have to pay another monthly fee in your life, you are getting something fully loaded, all red flags if somebody is offering you that,” Pantin pointed out.
Corporate Vice President of HB Latin America Group Javier Figueras agreed with Pantin about the rise of the Android boxes and the new frontier being explored by pirates.
“People are paying for services and not knowing how long it will last. It is true there are many Android boxes, there are many people paying for that but they don’t know how long it will last and for which distributors are not even paying a penny, such as companies like Novo, in this country pushing the Android box and pushing services that are totally illegal,” Figueras said.
Figueras said piracy is a very serious topic which affects all.
“Piracy oftentimes goes hand in hand with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapons, money laundering that affects the country,” he said, adding piracy is not the “victimless crime” that many believe it is.
TATT’s Karel Douglas said the authority will begin consultations for the regulation of Android boxes next week.
“We have persons in the industry question the importation and the sale of these devices and how it threatens the livelihood of many providers, we have had small cable tv broadcasters indicate that Android boxes have destroyed their business and they are opting out of the subscription television market,” Douglas said.
“We have been asked time and time again what is TATT the regulator doing about these devices and why is it that we the regulator is allowing Android boxes to be openly imported and sold to the public at the expense of the industry. Well, we have heard you and the authority will soon begin the process of holding consultations on the issue of Android boxes.”
One avenue that is being proposed to address the issue is the possible banning of Android boxes being imported into the country. TATT has already drafted a consultation paper which is to be published by June 25.