ART to quit pay-TV?
Written by Chris Forrester

Middle East pay-TV operator Arab Radio & Television (ART) is mulling over whether to quit pay-TV in its Arabic heartland. Pay-TV operations internationally, to the US, Europe, Asia and Australia, would continue.

The problem is that since ART sold off its expensive sports rights to Al Jazeeraís sports division, ARTís subscriber numbers have shrunk. Sources suggests that ďaboutĒ half of ARTís Mid-East subs have walked. ART sold its wide portfolio of sports programming for a reported $1.5bn in November last year. Since then ART has laid off staff at its Jordan Media City play-out HQ.

The options now being considered are for ART to exit pay-TV in the Middle East and focus on returning to its free-to-air roots. ART owns numerous Arabic movies and a huge catalogue of entertainment programming which would easily fill up a handful of channels Ė except that they would have to be advertising funded.

ART was founded back in 1993 by Sheikh Saleh Kamel. But Sheikh Salah, who is now semi-retired, had earlier played an important role at MBC, then a single London-based general entertainment channel.

Last summer two of ARTís rival Showtime Middle East and Orbit merged their operations.