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Mon 6 Dec 2004 04:00 AM

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Arabian Business Weekly Update 6 December 2004

E-Vision is poised for great things. But can it deliver?

Company with vision|~||~||~|I’ve had a lot of stick recently for being too negative in this column, so for once, just once, I’m going to be positive. I take my hat off to UAE cable company E-Vision.

Just four years ago nobody had heard of E-Vision, the independent enterprise backed by Etisalat. Chief Executive Humaid Rashid Sahoo faced a tough battle ahead, implementing new technology whilst battling competition from terrestrial television providers.

From an initial platform of 39 channels, the company now offers an impressive 200 channels, including – crucially for the likes of myself – virtually every Arsenal soccer game live. The question is, can E-Vision make a profit?

It hasn’t done so yet, and if the experience of cable companies in Europe is anything to go by, the omens are not good. British-based Telewest and NTL both nearly went broke, running up huge debts because of the cost of implementing cable television.

I am quietly confident this won’t happen to E-Vision for two reasons. Firstly, Etisalat has deep pockets, which always helps. Secondly, and more importantly, there is no competition to speak of. The most prominent competitor is Showtime, followed by Orbit and ART packages, all three of which are also now available as “partners” on E-Vision.

I know 12 people in Dubai who have purchased Showtime’s satellite package, and all 12 have experienced huge problems. My own experience is too painful to even write about. Regardless of my own straw poll, which indicates 100% dissatisfaction with Showtime, the feeling in the industry is that E-Vision’s quality is unbeatable.

E-Vision refuses to publicise exact figures except to say that revenues are up 200% this year. If E-Vision carries on this track and successfully implements its planned interactive technology, it may only be a matter of two years before it breaks even. If that happens, and it’s a big if, E-Vision has the potential to become the most valuable company in the UAE. Just looks what happened to British Sky Broadcasting when it started making a profit.||**||

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