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NBCUniversal pulling channels out of Russia

The channels arm of NBCUniversal is pulling out of the Russian market, citing the challenging economic environment for pay TV channels.

The decision comes amid media law changes that have made life difficult for international channel operators and means the E! Entertainment and Universal Channel will no longer have a presence in Russia.

NBCU declined to comment, but the closure of the channels will, TBI understands, mean job losses.

The environment for international channels has become challenging following a ban on pay TV advertising that came into effect at the start of the year.

Another blow was dealt to the international channels with the news of an impending reduction in the levels of ownership that non-Russian channel groups can hold in Russian channels.

The wider economic picture is also gloomy with the Russian economy suffering the impact of sanctions in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine.

The pair of channels that are shutting are operated by NBCU’s Universal Networks International division.

“Due to the challenging economic environment for our pay-TV channels [Universal Channel and E! Entertainment Television] in Russia, Universal Networks International has made the decision to no longer operate in the market and is looking at alternative opportunities for its channels business,” UNI said in a statement.

It added that other parts of the NBCU business that have a presence in Russia will be operating as normal and that the studio “remains committed to the Russian market”.

That means that NBCUniversal International Television Distribution and theatrical division Universal Pictures International will continue functioning and are not affected by the channels closure.

Other broadcast business such as Scandinavia-based MTG, which owns a significant stake in Russian channel CTC, have been affected by Russia’s media changes in recent months.