CAIRO: The paid television network Showtime recently launched three new packages in response to it s assessment of the regional market.
The new packages are based on the company s market research and reflect the diversity of viewer demand for certain channels. Subscribers can select the most appropriate mix of channels based on their preferences and budgets with the new packages.
It s more flexible, says Showtime Public Relations Manager Vida Rizq. It provides more opportunity for the subscriber.
One of the new packages also includes a second subscription. Seventy-two percent of people in the region have a second TV set, says Rizq. So it seems to us that parents, specifically, may want to have a second subscription for their children in another room. Or with the football [season] coming, maybe the men want to watch football and the lady of the house might want to watch something that s not football. So it appears that there is an opportunity for people to have a top-end package.
In Egypt, the network also provides a package which is not available in other countries. It is intended for families with limited budgets and includes a subset of channels at a lower price that the network s other packages.
The prices in Egypt are generally cheaper [for all packages] than the Gulf to start with, explains Marcus Isaac, Showtime s country sales manager for Egypt and North Africa. They re about 20 percent to 25 percent cheaper.
This package provides Egyptian subscribers with a handful of channels at a lower price than existing packages. It s a special package we made just for Egypt, adds Isaac, that takes one of each [genre] so that we can sell at a lower price in the Egyptian market.
Egypt is one of Showtime s four core markets, alongside Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Within the four core markets, that s where we concentrate our efforts and that s where most of our core subscribers reside, says Rizq. There s a lot of opportunity [in Egypt]. That s why we re here and that s why the [Egyptian] office is growing.
The network has some 50 employees in Cairo; these are mostly sales staff. Showtime also indirectly employs individuals at Cable Network Egypt (CNE) to handle its customer service enquiries.
CNE is a government-run institute here in Cairo that manages the customer platform of both Showtime and ART, explains Isaac. So once a customer has been signed up with Showtime, they ve been installed [and] they re watching Showtime at home, for anything after that all the service goes through CNE.
On the paid television front, Showtime has to contend with rivals Orbit and ART, which are generally cheaper. The network distinguishes itself by bringing the latest Western entertainment. We have 50 channels, says Rizq, and we are determined to maintain the position of see it first, which is very important to us, and see it all; and to get exclusive deals with the studios, you have to pay a premium for that as well.
The network also needs to compete with free television channels such as MBC. We show the latest season, says Rizq. We re always up to two years ahead of free-to-air.
Showtime works closely with studios in the United States to provide popular shows and movies. What we ve also done is to become quite connected with the studios, says Rizq, because we have five exclusive output deals with the studios in the U.S.
In terms of sports, the network recently launched two new sports channels which focus on sports such as Rugby that are popular amongst expatriates from Commonwealth countries as well as sports such as basketball that appeal to American expatriates in the region and American-educated individuals.
They are niche sports channels, says Rizq, in the sense that they target Commonwealth populations who are interested in those sports and American expatriates or people specifically interested.
These channels cater to a specific audience and don t air the sport with the most mass appeal in the region, football. It s something that our senior management debate all the time, explains Rizq. One of the things is that international football is primarily on pay TV. But all of the local leagues, the Saudi league and the Egyptian league, are all available free-to-air, and the rights for those are not available for pay TV. So the international pay TV football is taken at the moment and the Arab football is not available for pay TV because it has to be available for free-to-air in this region, and until that changes, if it changes, it s actually very difficult for us to create another football thing because the rights are taken.
Showtime was established 10 years ago as a joint venture between Viacom and the Kuwait International Projects Company. It is based in Dubai and employs approximately 650 people throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.