NBCUniversal's Universal Networks International Pulls Out of Russia After Ban on Commercials on Pay TV

The law went into effect on Jan. 1.

Universal Networks International (UNI) is pulling out of Russia following a ban on commercials on pay TV, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

"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.

"NBCUniversal remains committed to the Russian market, with Universal Pictures International and NBCUniversal International Television Distribution continuing their successful operations there," the statement further read.

Last year, President Vladimir Putin signed a bill, under which commercials on Russian pay TV were banned as of Jan. 1, 2015. The explanation was that equal conditions needed to exist for pay TV networks, which collect revenues from both subscriptions and advertisements, and free-to-air stations, which only rely on commercials for revenues.

Later, Putin said during his annual news conference that the idea to ban commercials on pay TV networks came from large, federal, free-to-air stations.

CNN was the first major foreign broadcaster to announce a pullout and is no longer available on Russian cable or satellite. However, there was a media report earlier this month saying that it could return.