A Chinese buyer has just acquired a majority stake in Dubai-based tele-shopping network operator Citruss TV with plans to expand its base well beyond Gulf territory into key African markets, Iran and even India and Russia. The move by Global Home Shopping (GHS) Co. — one of China’s Top 3 home shopping majors — will also see Citruss TV invest in an integrated production studio and headquarters.
Currently, much of the production side of things is done through third-party facilities, said the new CEO, Sammi Chen. The value of the deal has not been disclosed.
“At this stage, GHS has no plans to acquire the rest of the equity in Citruss TV … instead we will work with the original founders and other shareholders in expanding the scope of tele-shopping in new markets,” Chen said.
There are many who believe that with the rapid encroachment of online shopping platforms, TV-based home shopping services would see a decline in viewing and popularity. But in a recent interview with Gulf News, one of the co-founders said that viewership — and more importantly — the buying part of it was holding up well in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It has managed to build a following cutting across demographics, though the Arabic viewer remains dominant.
At the time, it was also said that Citruss TV was looking for strategic investors — and preferably those from within the industry — to come on board. Plus, there haven’t been much of a change in the average cost per purchase.
The surprise here is that a Chinese heavyweight GHS came in and bought up a majority. Citruss TV was founded by Michael Trueschler and Nicolas Bruylants. Since inception, the channel did have a couple of successful funding rounds.
“For GHS, this represents the first overseas move and it is also the first time that a Chinese home shopping network has done so,” said Chen, speaking through an interpreter.
“The priority going forward would be to start beaming into, selling and delivering the channel to new markets. There are quite a few that seem particularly interesting at this stage — definitely, there is North Africa, with Egypt being the main one, there’s South Africa and Nigeria, Iran, Russia and India. And not necessarily in that order.”
It’s interesting that some of the markets mentioned are still in the very early stages of the online push or managed to retain a sizeable TV viewing audience for home shopping channels despite eCommerce. India is a prime example of the latter.
On the asset building side, Chen said that Citruss TV needs to have a single location for both its office and production side of things. In the next year, it plans to finalise the decision, she added.
“Rather than at separate locations, as is the case now, we want to create an integrated facility,” the CEO said. “It will help bring in our own production team and have full control on all aspects. That’s the immediate aim.”
Equity deals in the UAE/Gulf’s media and web TV space has been seeing quite a bit of activity. Recently, Delta Partners based here was involved in a significant funding round called in by Starz Play, the regional avatar of the video on demand service.