Pay-TV merger for MENA ends years of speculation

A merger between the MENA region’s two biggest pay-TV providers, Showtime Arabia and Orbit, was finally agreed at 2am this morning after months of talks.

The announcement ends years of speculation that the region’s relatively small pay-TV market could continue to support three major players. Previous attempts to form a new partnership have failed but Marc-Antoine d’Halluin, president and CEO of Showtime Arabia, and Samir Abdulhadi, president and CEO of Bahrain-based Orbit Communications Company, appear to have bonded over a 50-50 deal, which will see the two sets of shareholders co-control the new merged entity.

d’Halluin expects the merged company to become “a formidable media leader” in coming months, with each partner effectively doubling its subscriber base and content provision.

The deal will have an almost immediate effect, with subscribers of each platform potentially receiving the top channels from the other broadcaster by the end of this week. Other channels will be added by the beginning of next month, although levels of access and fees will depend on subscription packages.

The merged company will retain the Orbit and Showtime brands for the time being, offering a total of  70 channels between them.

Showtime Arabia has already begun talks with Abu Dhabi Media Company about carrying its recently-won English Premier League rights. “Going forward, we have expressed that we intend to reach an agreement with our friends at ADMC and I see no reason why we wouldn’t be able to reach an agreement. In fact, now that we have created this new company, I think it would make it even more appealing for ADMC.”

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