ROME – Franco-Tunisian media mogul Tarak Ben Ammar announced Wednesday he had acquired Egypt’s ONTV Network, owned by Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, in a deal that will significantly upgrade Ben Ammar’s presence in the Arab world.
The announcement, made in Milan, included the news that ONTV would be folded into Ben Ammar’s Italy-based Prima TV operations, which holds all of Ben Ammar’s media assets.
The announcement also quashes speculation that Ben Ammar could make an 11th-hour bid for Telecom Italia’s La7, the smallest of Italy’s seven national networks. Telecom Italia could name the winner of bidding for the company as soon as Thursday.
Ben Ammar’s announcement means that the winning bid for La7 and Telecom Italia Media’s other television holdings will almost surely come from the list of previously-announced bidders: U.S.-based Discovery Channel; the Italian private equity fund Hourglass; Cairo Communication, controlled by Telecom Italia ad buyer Urbano Cairo; and 3-Italia, the mobile phone company controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Shing.
The deal for ONTV gives Ben Ammar his first-ever foray into the fast-growing Egyptian market, though Ben Ammar’s Prima TV already owns North Africa television network Nessma TV along with two partners: Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Tunisian brothers Ghazi and Nebil Karoui.
In a statement, Prima TV said ONTV would continue to be based in Cairo. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Ben Ammar said one of ONTV's strengths would be the absence of a political agenda in its broadcasts.
“I come from the entertainment world,” Ben Ammar said. “I am not a politician. I have no ties to any political party, even in my own country, Tunisia. “I am solely focused on providing audiences with the best, most relevant content possible, whether that be in current affairs, film or TV."
Prima TV holdings include the Sportitalia TV brand and independent Italian filmmaker Eagle Pictures.