Al Jazeera Sport "has bought exclusive media rights to English Premier League" in the Middle East and North Africa for three years starting from next month, according to Ken Ferris of REUTERS. Qatar-based Al Jazeera "reached agreement with TV sports rights firm MP & Silva for access to all 380 Premier League matches across media platforms and devices in 23 countries" from Iran to Morocco, taking in the UAE and Egypt. Former Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray "will front the English language programmes with Ayman Jada and Mohammed Saadon Al Kuwari presenting Arabic coverage" starting with the '13-14 season, which kicks off on Aug. 17. In January, MP & Silva "trumped its larger rivals Abu Dhabi Media and Al Jazeera to win the three-year contract to distribute Premier League" football in the region (REUTERS, 7/16). In N.Y., Rory Jones reported Al Jazeera Sports has "clinched the rights," scoring the football equivalent of an injury-time winner. Customers of Abu Dhabi Sports, the exclusive Middle East broadcaster for the previous three Premier League seasons, "will now have to switch to Al Jazeera Sports." Speculation in the media industry was that none of the major broadcasters had offered the Premier League close to the $360M that Abu Dhabi Media "reportedly paid in the previous three-year round, and so MP & Silva stepped in to take the rights for an undisclosed price with the aim of reselling them" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/16).
COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE: In L.A., Georg Szalai reported Al Jazeera Sport said it "plans to bring its subscribers complete coverage" of the Premier League, including dedicated studios for both Arabic and English coverage. The Middle East and North Africa region includes such countries as Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 7/16).
The EPL secured a judgement in the high court requiring the six main U.K.-based Internet service providers to block access to FirstRowSports, one of the biggest illegal live football-streaming sites in the U.K. The high court ruled that FirstRowSports was acting jointly with third party streaming services to communicate to the public live EPL matches, a breach of EPL contract. Section 97A of the Copyright and Patents Act of 1988 has been used previously by music and film industries to secure protection from illegal streaming sites, such as Pirate Bay, but this is the first time that a sporting body has sought an order blocking a site that infringes its copyright (EPL).
COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT: The London DAILY MIRROR reported a judge said the orders were justified as the operators of the "very popular" website were making millions of pounds from copyright infringement. The judge said FirstRow was "profiting from infringement on a large scale" by making match broadcasts available "to persons who are not entitled to view them either because they have not subscribed to the broadcaster's service, or because the broadcaster has only been licensed by FAPL for a different territory." The injunction is against the U.K.'s six main retail Internet service providers -- British Sky Broadcasting, BT, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, Telefonica UK and Virgin Media (DAILY MIRROR, 7/16).
Multimedia group Mediapro President Jaume Roures, whose company is "the leading rights holder" for live TV coverage of La Liga matches, wants to "see more matches played between mid-day and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays," according to INSIDE SPANISH FOOTBALL. Roures said that "not only will such a move help improve viewing audiences in the key Asian market, but that it also will be more beneficial to the clubs." Roures: "The clubs are seriously considering the proposal for this season. We’ll see what the final outcome of the discussions is. Ultimately, television would benefit from this, but the primary beneficiaries would also be the clubs." The "El Clasico" confrontations between Barcelona and Real Madrid are known to attract some of the highest TV audiences in world football. Roures indicated that he is trying to encourage the clubs to "accommodate the idea of mid-day matches." Roures said, "Given the difficulty of making our presence felt in Asia, playing such matches between mid-day and 4pm would be the best time" (INSIDE SPANISH FOOTBALL, 7/15).
The BBC has agreed a new four-year deal with the Welsh Rugby Union to screen Wales' home autumn Tests until '18. The contract ensures viewers will be able to watch Wales' 2013 British and Irish Lions stars on the BBC network and online. WRU CEO Roger Lewis said the deal is "incredibly significant for the future of Welsh rugby." The agreement also covers potential one-off Test matches, such as fixtures played in the month of June before a summer tour, but does not include any games which will be scheduled in the "warm-up" period before the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The WRU also intends to ensure Saturday afternoon kick-offs become standard for autumn internationals as of '14 (BBC).