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Naspers to unbundle, list MultiChoice; beIN takes on Saudi Arabia over piracy

In this monthly Africa and Middle East video spotlight feature, S&P Global Market Intelligence provides a roundup of news related to over-the-top, video-on-demand and other online video initiatives in different African and Middle Eastern markets.

TOP NEWS

* Naspers Ltd. is planning to separately list its Video Entertainment business on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The new entity will be named MultiChoice Group and will include MultiChoice South Africa, MultiChoice Africa Ltd., Showmax Africa and Irdeto BV. Naspers will simultaneously unbundle the shares in this business to its shareholders. "Listing MultiChoice Group via unbundling aims to unlock value for Naspers shareholders and at the same time create an empowered, top 40 JSE-listed African entertainment company," Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk said in a statement.

* Global sports and entertainment media group beIN Media Group LLC on Oct. 1 said that it has initiated an international investment arbitration against Saudi Arabia for damages totaling more than US$1 billion, "having been unlawfully driven out of the Saudi market and subjected to what has been described as the most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting." The arbitration is in relation to Saudi Arabia-based beoutQ's alleged piracy of sports content with the assistance of Arab Satellite Communications Organisation, which beIN says is "state-supported."

OTHER STORIES

* The Middle East Broadcast Corp.'s MBC Persia launched its Farsi TV channel on Oct. 6, Telecompaper reported, citing Nextvame. The broadcasting company also plans to create exclusive productions for the channel by the end of 2018 or early 2019.

* Ghana's Ministry of Communications has teamed up with StarTimes to provide satellite TV to about 300 villages in the country, Telecompaper reported Oct. 2. Under the project, free solar-powered digital TV receiving systems, decoders and projectors will be provided.

* The Scottish Professional Football League has renewed a broadcasting deal with BeIN Media's beIN SPORTS, which will run until June 2020, according to an Oct. 2 news release. The agreement includes exclusive broadcasting rights in Australia, New Zealand and 24 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

* BeIN SPORTS will have exclusive rights to broadcast the English Football League and Cup matches across the Middle East and North Africa until the end of the 2021/22 season, following a new multiyear agreement entered by the parties, according to a Sept. 26 news release.

* TV audience in Nigeria will have access to a multichannel bouquet called PREMIUM.FREE, which will consist of 13 new free-to-air channels, according to a Sept. 25 news release. The channels will be supplied by channel network AfricaXP and will be aired through SES SA's satellites.

* The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association expressed its "unequivocal objection" to Ghana's Ministry of Communications' plan to surrender the control of the country's digital terrestrial TV to StarTimes, Advanced Television reported Sept. 19. The group said it will challenge the said plan to give the country's sole DTT infrastructure to the Chinese pay TV company.

* The Saudi Research and Marketing Group on Sept. 18 said that it is rebranding Bloomberg Al Arabiya to Bloomberg Asharq, a multiplatform Arabic-language news service. The move follows an agreement between SRMG and Bloomberg Inc. for a 24-hour television and radio network and digital platform. Bloomberg Asharq will be headquartered in the United Arab Emirates.

* Arabsat and Belgium-headquartered satellite communications company Newtec Cy NV entered into a multimillion-euro deal for the launch of new high throughput satellite services in the Middle East and Africa. The initial hub is anticipated to be installed in Europe within October, according to a Sept. 15 news release.

* Talia Ltd. on Sept. 14 announced that it has deployed a new uplink platform to host HD and standard definition channels Arabsat Badr-7 satellite at 26 degrees East. The deal will also allow Arabsat to secure its broadcasting service using the Badr-7 satellite and Talia's ground facilities.

* Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Audiovisual Media struck an agreement with iflix Sdn. Bhd.'s iflix Middle East and North Africa to increase production in the country, Telecompaper reported Sept. 13. Under the deal, iflix will get assistance in finding local producers, directors, actors and writers.

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