ART fumbles free World Cup screenings ‘scoop’

Pan-Arab satellite broadcaster ART has come under fire again for not properly publicising that its broadcasts of the World Cup semi-finals and final were available on a free-to-air channel.

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By  Steve Wrelton Published  July 16, 2006

Pan-Arab satellite broadcaster ART has come under fire again for not properly publicising that its broadcasts of the World Cup semi-finals and final were available on a free-to-air channel. PR experts have criticised ART for failing to capitalise on the broadcasts to counter some of the negative publicity the network has received. Many viewers across the region who did not pay for ART’s World Cup coverage only found out they could watch the games on ART EIN channel for free after the tournament had finished. ART has admitted it could have managed its public relations surrounding the World Cup better. Campaign understands that ART has been working with PR agency Promoseven in Jeddah — although both refused to elaborate on the details of the relationship. Asked why ART had decided to broadcast the semi-final and final matches of the World Cup for free, ART marketing director Maher Bardawil, said: “It’s part of our commitment to give those people who are not able to pay subscriptions to see at least the semis and the finals. It’s a gesture of good will, that’s all.” Bardawil said the free broadcasts on ART EIN were not a reaction to the negative publicity it had received and said that the broadcasts had been advertised in selected newspapers and on ART itself. But many football fans said that they were not aware of the matches being shown on the free-to-air channel. Oliver Stelling, chief operating officer for Bates PanGulf Public Relations, said that ART had missed the chance for a potential ‘scoop’. “I heard that the semi-finals and finals were being shown for free, but I did not see or hear any official announcement,” he said. “Clearly you would want to read about that in the papers or hear it on the radio so that you simply cannot miss it. It looks like a potential scoop that went largely unnoticed.” Camilla d’Abo, PR director at d’Events in Dubai, added: “In a city where most clients will use any excuse to send a press release, it does appear a little odd that they didn’t want to capitalise on this goodwill gesture.” Ziad Kayali, senior account manager at Promoseven in Jeddah, confirmed the agency was working with ART, but declined to give any details about what PR activities had been carried out. Bardawil, however, refused to say whether the broadcaster had hired Promoseven, saying that it was looking at a number of PR options. “We have a number of scenarios,” he said. “PR is a big issue. It is as important as advertising and we are treating it as such.”

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