Middle East media firms tune in to Filipino TV with major broadcast deals

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Two Middle East-based media companies have won the rights to air TV stations owned by the GMA Network, one of the biggest broadcasters in the Philippines.

My-HD Media and Sawa Media plan to target one of the largest expat communities in the Middle East and North Africa with the broadcast of the GMA Pinoy TV and GMA Life TV channels.


Regional rights to the two channels were previously held by the pay-TV network OSN.

My-HD Media and Sawa Media, both of which are based in Dubai, have also obtained the rights to broadcast a third channel called GMA News TV.

This channel, broadcast for the first time in the region, will eventually include regional news reports, said Gilberto Duavit, president and chief operating officer of GMA Network.

“In addition to showing news programs that are aired nationwide on GMA News TV, plans are also underway for the airing of regional newscasts, which are produced by our various originating stations," Duavit said in a statement.

My-HD Media plans to sell packages that include the three satellite channels from May 1.

It has appointed Sawa Media as its exclusive internet protocol television (IPTV) and cable distribution company for the GMA channels.

Ali Ajouz, managing director of Sawa Media, said the two companies expect to grow the regional subscription base to around 50,000 by 2015.

“We expect to grow the business to between 40,000 and 50,000 subscriptions within two years… between cable and satellite,” Ajouz told Al Arabiya.

“We’ll license to all the cable operators in the region,” Ajouz added. Such operators include STC in Saudi Arabia and Etisalat and du in the UAE, which all offer television services over IPTV connections.

According to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, which is part of the Office of the President of the Philippines, there are more than 2.7 million Filipinos living in the GCC. There are more than 1.5 million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia and 670,000 in the UAE, according to the commission.

OSN continues to advertise its Pinoy Plus Extra subscription on its website. The 52-channel package includes channels GMA Pinoy TV and GMA Life TV and costs Dh151.89 a month. OSN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is not yet clear how much My-HD Media and Sawa Media will charge to receive the channels.

Cliff Nelson, chief executive of My-HD Media, said the Filipino community is “one of the largest in the region and plays a significant role in the development of local economies.”

He added that the agreement will allow My-HD Media to “not only increase its viewership base, but will also increase the growth potential for affordable pay-TV in high definition quality.”

My-HD last year signed a deal with MBC Group, the Arab world’s biggest broadcaster, to carry a number of MBC’s high-definition channels. Al Arabiya English is part of MBC Group.

Consumers must purchase a My-HD viewing card to access the channels, and also need a compatible set-top box.

The GMA Network is listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Additional research by Noelle Manalastas.

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