5th December, 2012- It was announced today that Tarak Ben Ammar has acquired Naguib Sawiris’ ONTV network in a ground-breaking deal that signals a dramatic development in the Arab media landscape. The move marks the first time that Ben Ammar, who owns leading North African network Nessma TV alongside partners Mediaset and the Karoui Brothers, is investing directly into the Egyptian market.
Ben Ammar’s Italian company Prima TV will acquire Naguib Sawiris’ interests in ONTV, which has established itself as one of Egypt’s most independent and objective media outlets.
Prima TV holds all of Tarak Ben Ammar’s media assets. In addition to Nessma, Prima also owns the Sportitalia TV brand; and Eagle Pictures- which is one of Italy’s most successful independent film distributors releasing the likes of the Twilight franchise and Academy Award-winner The King’s Speech. Prima also owns the digital network on which digital terrestrial pay bouquet Mediaset Premium broadcasts. Mediaset Premium has exclusive deals with Warner Bros and Universal, and semi-exclusive deals with Mediaset.
The deal represents a strategic decision to create an alliance between the North African market, which comprises some 90 million people, with the Egyptian market, a further 80 million. The total combined population of these two markets accounts for more than half of the Arab world’s entire population.
ONTV will continue to be run out of its Cairo head office as an independent news channel with no affiliation to any political party and with its management exercising complete editorial independence. ONTV will benefit from the new non-Egyptian ownership that has no connection or ties to any political group in Egypt and is committed entirely to ensuring impartiality and respecting the diversity of views in the country.
“I come from the entertainment world. I am not a politician. I have no ties to any political party, even in my own country Tunisia,” says Tarak Ben Ammar. “I am solely focused on providing audiences with the best, most relevant content possible, whether that be in current affairs, film or TV.”
Ben Ammar will create added value and synergies between his European and Arab media assets including Nessma and now ONTV. Ben Ammar is exploring launching at some point in the future a new general entertainment channel dedicated entirely to Egyptian audiences and content utilising one of ONTV’s existing frequencies. He is also looking at opportunities in both Algeria and Morocco.
Ben Ammar is also holding advanced discussions about launching a dedicated Nessma France in 2013 that would cater directly to the seven million French citizens of Arab and Muslim origin.
Ben Ammar will actively pursue broadening his group’s remit in Egypt to beyond current affairs, so that it can mine Egypt’s glittering tradition of film and TV production. Ben Ammar will look to invest in entertainment content for the Egyptian, North African and pan-Arab markets across his various platforms.
For all of Deadline's headlines, follow us @Deadline on Twitter.