Showtime scores goal

Now that ART, which had the broadcast rights to televise the English Premiership in the Middle East has been edged out by Showtime Arabia, one wonders if ART has enough programming to retain its existing viewership and Showtime has what it takes to make the most of the Premiership rights.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  December 16, 2006

I|~||~||~|Football, a sport that can make or break big broadcast companies overnight, is now courting new players in the Middle East. Arab Radio & Television, which had the broadcast rights to televise the English Premier League in the Middle East has been edged out by rival Showtime Arabia, which has won the rights to the next three seasons starting in August 2007. Apparently, there is nothing else that is of as much interest on ART’s bouquet as football for its Western viewers. Now that ART has lost the rights to the Premiership, skeptics wonder if ART will survive. Fortunately for ART, it has a strong Arabic viewership; and Arab Digital Distribution (ADD), which owns ART, also owns the Pehla network. Only Pehla currently carries all of the channels that are of interest to people from the Indian Subcontinent. ADD will survive alright as most Indian and Arabic viewers are hooked to their respective native channels. Showtime Arabia, meanwhile, already has a good mix of movies, and other TV series on its bouquet. Adding the Premiership, therefore, might not just up its advertising revenue but its subscribers as well. Surely, advertisers who want to target young male viewers, will have to shift loyalties from ART to Showtime. However, there is also much speculation about whether Showtime will be able to generate enough revenue to justify the huge price it had to pay for the Premiership rights. The pay TV operator will have to play its cards right to ensure that it can balance the books. Already, Showtime Arabia has recently laid off a large number of its employees. One wonders if there’s any link between it acquiring the rights to the English Premiership and making employees redundant. Could it be that the pay TV operator could not sustain so many employees and also bear the burden of the Premiership without breaking its back? Or could it be that a certain element of commercial realism has finally entered the Middle East market and companies in the broadcast sector are looking at operating with fewer overheads? ||**||

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