Dubai, United Arab Emirates -- Middle East subscription-TV
platform Arab Radio & Television (ART) confirmed it has considered exiting the pay TV
ART has not yet made a final decision on whether it will
offer its five-channel premium bouquet on a free-to-air basis. However, one channel --ART
Music -- has transmitted an unencrypted signal in the Middle East, and is available to
anyone with a digital set-top viewing the ArabSat or NileSat satellite-TV platforms. The
aim is to attract panregional ad revenue to the channel.
ART is owned by Saudi Arabia's Prince Al Waleed bin Talal,
also an investor in News Corp. and Italy's Mediaset, and Sheikh Saleh Kamel, who has a 30
According to one unconfirmed local report, Prince Al Waleed
has decided against further investments in ART, although Kamel appears able to continue
funding the operation. What is clear, however, is that six-year-old ART did not meet its
goal of becoming profitable within five years.
Making a living from subscription TV in the Middle East
still appears to be a nightmare. Rival platform Orbit Radio & Television is also
finding it difficult to make ends meet and is likely to move its operations base from Rome
to Bahrain, whose government is keen to attract broadcasters.
However, ART is enjoying some success outside of the
region. Its North American bouquet on EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network
direct-to-home platform claims more than 60,000 subscribers. ART subscribers in Latin
America, Europe and the Far East and Australia are also buoyant. The company claims about
25,000 homes in Europe, about half of those in France on DTH platform Television Par