Pay TV titans kick off row
Manama, June 18, 2007
Pay TV giants Showtime and ART have clashed over the advertising of English Premier League football matches.
While it is the close-season for teams in the England, the two rival satellite operators have already kicked off hostilities for next season with a dispute over advertisements used to promote coverage of the sport's most lucrative league.
ART's Dubai-based advertising agency OMD last week contacted publications to say that a print advertisement being distributed by Showtime contravened advertising regulations by mentioning ART by name.
The agency sent out what it claimed was a copy of the ad in question, which shows Arsenal footballer Thierry Henry and features slogans which target current subscribers of rival services provided by ART and SuperSport.
'ART Subscribers: You will only get some delayed club coverage, the only way to see all 380 games live is on Showtime,' reads one caption on the ad.
'As you can see the ad content is harmful to our client ART since there is a clear text addressed to the subscribers of ART. As per the advertising laws in the GCC and under the IAA rules comparative advertising is not allowed,' OMD manager of buying Carole Matar said in an e-mail to publications.
However Showtime have hit back, denying wrongdoing and alleging that misleading advertising from some rival operators had forced the Premier League to issue an official statement confirming Showtime has the sole rights to live matches next season.
The Gulf Daily News reported that it had informed Showtime of ART's allegations and received a reply from the firm's vice-president of marketing and public relations Azhar Malik.
'Research from the markets proved that a series of inaccurate communications to existing pay TV customers about what is available and with whom had the net effect of leaving sports fans confused. In order to clear up the confusion around the exclusivity of the English Premier League we clearly communicated the facts to the audience that were being misled,' he said.
The Premier League recently issued a statement confirming that live matches will be the exclusive preserve of Showtime, beginning next season.
'Showtime Arabia has acquired the broadcast rights for the Middle East and North Africa for the next three seasons starting in August 2007 and is the only network that is able to broadcast live games,'
the league's head of international broadcasting and media operations Phil Lines said.
'No other broadcaster in the region has the rights to air any of the Premier League games live or even delayed on the same day,' Phil Lines said.
Matar said ART would take strong action if it suspected any of its competitors were using its name without permission.
'I received a legal note yesterday evening saying that anyone who issues any material using the name of ART will be sued or will have to suffer the consequences - anyone who publishes anything which includes their name that they haven't the right to do so,' she said. TradeArabia News Service