Dubai: Cable TV provider e-vision is charting a path to profitability by winning new subscribers through enhanced sport and movie offerings, its chief executive said yesterday.

Since it was launched in 2000, the wholly owned subsidiary of etisalat has faced a challenge from popular free-to-air (FTA) channels, which households receive at no cost directly through their satellite dishes. There are over 150 free stations offering Arabic content alone, said e-vision CEO Humaid Rashid Sahoo.

Free satellite channels in the Middle East were created at an astonishing rate over the last two years, their ranks swelling by 41 per cent in 2005 and 52 per cent in 2006, noted Samir Abdul Hadi, chief executive of Orbit Satellite Television and Radio Network.

e-vision says it has a 60 per cent cable TV market share with 120,00 subscribers in the UAE. du's cable TV unit and direct-to-home satellite TV broadcasters round out the market.

Worldwide, both free and paid cable TV providers face a highly competitive market environment according to Nick Grande, a broadcast media expert based in the UAE. "The vast majority of operators in free and pay TV are finding it difficult to make a profit," he said.

Despite the competitive landscape e-vision, which offers packages from broadcasters such as ART, Orbit and Showtime Arabia, would become profitable soon, Sahoo said. "This business is a long-term investment," he told Gulf News last week.

To bring e-vision into the black, Sahoo said he is under forging contracts to bring in more live sporting events and recently released box-office films to bring in new customers.

"The two most important types of content to attract people to subscribe are sports and movies," he said.

Last year, e-vision grew its subscriber list by over 20 per cent when it broadcast live the football World Cup, which brought in more than 20,000 new accounts.

The company expects to add new subscribers through its live coverage in the Cricket World Cup and hopes to add professional wrestling coverage as well.

At the same time e-vision is trying to forge a reputation for showing recently movies just out of the box office, as it did last week with its broadcast of Oscar-winner The Queen.