Showtime plans Arabic programmes

Middle East pay TV network, Showtime is working on a plan to create high quality Arabic programme content.

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By  Richard Abbott Published  May 30, 2006

Middle East pay TV network, Showtime is working on a plan to create high quality Arabic programme content. The move, which is similar to the path taken by the HBO network in the US, would mark a major departure for Showtime, which has built its subscriber base on the back of first-run showings of Western programming. “We are looking at what is the next challenge,” says Peter Einstein, president and CEO of Showtime. “While we will continue to search for the best of international programming, one of the next things for us is made-for-pay-TV programming in Arabic.” Although much of the material on Showtime’s 50 channels is in English, the vast majority of the network’s estimated 200,000 subscribers are Arab. “There are lots of Arabic programmes available on free-to-air. HBO stood out by creating things like The Sopranos and Sex in the City. For us, it could be in any genre and that is what we are exploring right now,” says Einstein. “It would need to be different. I think we will start seeing things coming through the pipeline in the next 18 months.” Asked whether Showtime was talking to production companies within the region, Einstein said: “Yes — everybody. Even Hollywood studio partners have expressed interest.” Potential production hubs for Showtime would include Dubai Studio City, along with Beirut. “You can also do things very nicely in Cairo, but what will be available in Studio City will be very sophisticated,” he says.

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