10.45 Update: Kuwait Projects Co (KIPCO) has announced it is to merge its Showtime Arabia joint venture with the Orbit Group.
“This deal is all about consolidation. First, it brings together two great brands in one company to offer customers the very best in Western and Arabic entertainment,” said KIPCO vice chairman Faisal al Ayyar. “KIPCO and Orbit were pioneers of the region’s pay-TV market and we’ve both been calling for a consolidation of the market for some time. So, joining forces in this way is good news for customers, staff and the local TV industry.”
Samir Abdulhadi, President and CEO of Orbit Group, added: “This unprecedented merger is great news for the industry and customers alike, because it consolidates two leading pay-TV platforms, brings together the best channel line-up under one operator and combines all customer service and distribution networks into a single point of call”
No financial terms were disclosed, though the deal is said to be a 50/50 venture between the new partners. KIPCO owns 73% of Showtime Arabia with the remainder held by the US Viacom Group. Previously KIPCO had said it was talking with potential partners and in 2006 had announced an IPO, but later postponed the plan following a downturn in Arab financial markets.
Showtime is believed to have in the region of 220,000 subscribers, while Orbit is said to have just over 90,000.
The new venture will be headed by Marc-Antoine d’Halluin, the current Showtime CEO, who has previously been head of Canal+ in the Nordic region and launched Fox Kids.
New subscribers will benefit from a new package that goes live on August 1 and includes 70 exclusive channels. Ahead will be decisions on platforms and technology. Showtime broadcasts from Nilesat (seven degrees West) with Irdeto conditional access and OpenTV middleware, while Orbit is on Eutelsat’s Eurobird 2 (25.5 degrees East), currently with a mix of MediaGuard and Irdeto CA and the MediaHighway middleware.