Showtime set for talks after losing Premier League deal

EXCLUSIVE: TV chief hopes to strike deal with ADMC to continue football coverage.

Showtime Arabia revealed on Tuesday it is to hold talks with Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) after losing out to its rival in the battle to show English Premier League football.

Marc-Antoine d’Halluin, president and CEO of the pay TV service provider, exclusively told Arabian Business that Showtime hopes to carry Abu Dhabi sports channels which air all Premier League matches from 2010 onwards.

Dubai-based Showtime unsuccessfully bid to extend its three-year contract, which expires next May when the 2009-10 season ends.

“What we are hoping to achieve is to reach an agreement with our friends at Abu Dhabi media in order to continue securing the Premier League on the Showtime platform,” d’Halluin said.

“This would be achieved by Showtime distributing the Abu Dhabi sports encrypted channels on our platform.

“Abu Dhabi will associate their name with the Premier League, which we think is a great thing because already the city, as we all know, is closely associated with the league through Manchester City. We see the logic in this association and Premier League matches being featured on an Abu Dhabi channel.”

Talks between Showtime and ADMC have yet to take place, with d’Halluin insisting he is in no hurry to start negotiations.

“There is no rush because the Premier League season 2009-10 is going to be broadcast exclusively on Showtime,” he said.

On July 3, ADMC announced it had secured rights to show Premier League football on its sports channels for three seasons starting from Aug. 2010.

The unexpected announcement led to suggestions that Showtime subscription numbers among sports fans could drop once its Premier League contract runs out.

But d’Halluin insisted the TV company has several other channels and shows to satisfy existing customers and entice new ones.

He said: “If we were not able to reach an agreement I would be disappointed, but Showtime is not limited to the Premier League in any way or form.

“It is a premium pay television platform that features movies, series, a lot of third party channels totalling more than 40, and sports with Premier League golf, rugby and now cricket. The dependency of Showtime vis-a-vis the Premier League is extremely limited.

“Rights come and go, but at the end of the day what is more important is the platform and our subscribers know we will bring them the very best entertainment.”

d’Halluin said he saw no reason why Showtime could not agree a deal with ADMC. But he insisted any failure to finalise a tie-up would not spell disaster for the company.

He added Showtime’s recently launched high definition channel, which will air movies, TV shows and Premier League football for the coming season, was just one feature that would excite viewers.

“There is not a month at showtime where we are not innovating by launching new products and concepts and I would expect this to remain the case,” he said.

“We are not limited to the Premier League and there are other sports and things we can bring. We are the premium pay TV platform in the region, which means we bring the very best of Western and Arabic entertainment.”

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Posted by: Norman Baumgreen

I can't believe some of the nonsense written here, especially by expats. What do Bahrain do badly with F1? They broadcast a feed with English commentary, and they don't have a couple of "experts" talking rubbish around it, nor cut it with adverts (try watching it in South Asia or the Far East!). And Abu Dhabi. Some have whined "They haven't got enough channels!".... has it occurred to you that they will add some? And how do you know that they haven't looked at the Showtime model and are planning as we speak (they don't start broadcasting for another year!) to have a nice studio, decent presenters and excellent coverage? I agree that Showtime have done a fantastic job with their premiership coverage, but they lost the bid and now it moves on. It happened to Orbit, and they've never recovered. It's up to Showtime to either sublicense the EPL or fill the gap with new and innovative entertainment, not multiple screenings of US and UK TV shows and movies. I've written to Showtime asking about Investigation Discovery, for example, and they took the time to reply, so if you have suggestions as a Showtime subscriber, don't snivel on here, be positive and write to them and ask. But let's not knock Abu Dhabi before they've even had a chance.

Posted by: Michael

When Showtime started years ago , wasn?t relaying on sports channels i.e.' EPL , let?s be realistic . Showtime provides excellent programs and services , the EPL yes it?s an add on , hope that ADMC will compromise.

Posted by: John Smith

Personally I think that the Showtime network is easily the best network in the region. Their coverage of football, although not ground breaking, easily beat any other regional network. Unlike ART who decided they could get away with NO studios at half time and no analysis whatsoever Showtime has tried to offer people a version of Sky style coverage in the Gulf. I think this is to be commended. Certainly there is an argument that they are a little expensive but this is the Gulf and they are the only decent provider. Now compare this to how Al Jazeera Sport are going to cover the Champions League OR how ART covered the Last World Cup or the frankly embarrassing Bahrain TV coverage of F1. None of these other channels have ANY IDEA what they are doing. Showtime has been a real innovator in this region. I hate to think just how bad Abu Dhabi's coverage will be. I am sure they WILL show all the games, I expect them simply to retransmit SKY coverage and omit the studio sections at half time, filling these with banal taped generic programs at half time, the sort of rubbish we presently see from so called sports channels in the Gulf.

Posted by: Barney Stinson

I used to a be a journalist for SKY Sports in England and despite all the innovations, bells and whistles we were constantly told that all the fans really sought was to be able to see whatever game they wanted live ? SKY could not provide this but Showtime currently does. The coverage of Premiership football is better her via Showtime that it is in England because we can pick whatever game we want and watch it live, with English commentary. If ADMC are to match this level of coverage, they will need to have access of up to 10 channels so they can stream all the games simultaneously, when every team plays at the same time. Currently they have (I think) only two ? so how are they going to cover all the matches? Plus, they need to match the level of quality. ShowSports have decent pre-match build up, they show the goals from other games at halftime, have the GoalRush at the end of the day, have decent studio guests and a review programme on a Monday. Compare that to the next best sports channel out here (the useless Al Jazeera Sport ) and you?ll see how far ahead they are. I would much rather pay and have a guarantee of every game live, with English commentary and decent quality coverage then get a shoddy service and no choice free from ADMC.

Posted by: Dubai_Anonymous

you are very brave to say they are overcharging... what are u comparing it against to say they are overcharging? i find it quite reasonable.. actually sky charge the same amount as showtime, check their website and do the currency conversion... i agree with your point about slamball, i think its a horrible sport (or whatever it is) but they have 4 sports channels to fill that operate 24 hrs a day, they cant keep repeating the same football, rugby, and cricket all the time can they?? also football and cricket are the 2 most followed sports in this region and which are both on showtime... (the ashes has just started as we speak) this is not a monopoly like sky, there are around 5 pay tv operatrs in this region all fighting for programs, u cant have everything. of coourse i would prefer to subscribe to one company and get it all, but unfortunately it doesnt work that way in this region... cheap programming?? i cmpletely disagree... there is something for my whole family, including my 2 kids... look at my previous comment about what we get from showtime that u dont get anywhere else... anyway we are entitled to our opinions and i respect yours...

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