BeIN Sport May Submit Bid For U.S. EPL Rights As Net Looks To Expand Footprint
One question in a "growing U.S. soccer media market" is whether Al Jazeera-owned, English-language soccer channel beIN Sport "will make a push to acquire" the U.S. EPL rights for three seasons starting in '13-14, according to Grant Wahl of SI.com. The deadline for bids is “expected to come in the next two weeks, with beIN Sport's potential competitors including Fox, ESPN and perhaps NBC/Comcast and Univision.” Apple and Google also were “thought to be in the race at one point, though that possibility has cooled somewhat.” The increase in competition for U.S. soccer rights “should be a good thing for consumers and the sport itself, as long it remains a rational economic market." However, "a number of questions have been raised.” Wahl: “Why is Al Jazeera investing millions on soccer in America? Is Al Jazeera using live sports to try to leverage its hard-to-find English-language news channel onto more U.S. distribution platforms? And is beIN Sport overpaying for soccer rights as a Qatari vanity project that doesn't make business sense?” BeIN Sport Managing Dir Yousef Al Obaidly said that the net is “independent from Al Jazeera's news channel and is simply trying to grow as a sports channel.” Al Obaidly: "We're looking at all sports, not just soccer.” He added that rugby, tennis, motorsports, track and field, volleyball and handball are among "the channel's other potential interests.”
ACCESS IS EVERYTHING: FocalSport consultancy President Mark Noonan, who previously served as MLS Exec VP, said, "The true test for beIN Sport is they've acquired some premium content, if you will, so now can they get the distribution to support that content and business model?” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said, "The issue with beIN Sport that some of our fans have is they don't have access to it. That's the only issue. They'll get greater distribution, there's no doubt about that, given the investments they're making and the properties they have." Wahl noted both beIN Sport and the net's Spanish-language channel are “currently available on the top two satellite providers, DirecTV and DISH, while Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, is carrying only beIN Sport's Spanish-language channel for now.” Al Obaidly said that “more than 13 million U.S. homes (out of an available 54 million) are now receiving the beIN Sport signal.” Al Obaidly: "We're in the process of negotiating and hopefully reaching agreement with another platform, but we're only 47 days old, a very young sports network." Al Obaidly “denied reports that beIN Sport was paying Comcast for carriage.” Meanwhile, he said that beIN Sport has “no plans to offer" online live-stream subscription services "a la Watch ESPN or FoxSoccer2Go" (SI.com, 10/12).