By: Kent Gibbons – Multichannel News
beIN Sport, the new U.S. channels bearing rights to such soccer properties as the top professional leagues in Spain, Italy and France, expects to add a fourth big distributor soon, the channels’ managing director said at an industry conference in New York.
Yousef Al Obaidly said during the Hispanic Television Summit “there is an operator that will be signing beIN Sport soon. So I encourage everybody that is a fan of sport to call the operator and give them pressure to get beIN Sport rolling.”
He would not name the distributor, saying the negotiations were confidential.
The beIN Sport channels – one in English, the other in Spanish – are backed by Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera, which also launched new channels in France this year carrying top pro soccer matches.
The U.S. channels are distributed on satellite-TV providers DirecTV and Dish Network, and by top U.S. cable distributor Comcast, on sports and Hispanic packages.
Asked how many subscribers currently get the beIN Sport channels on those three platforms, Al Obaidly said the figure was “in excess of 13 million” from a potential base of 54 million homes.“It’s a big number for a 45-days [old] channel,” he said. “We’re quite happy today and I guarantee you that the channel will be distributed on another platform.”
Among the rights beIN Sport has acquired are away matches played by the U.S. men’s national team in the attempt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil.
While ESPN holds the rights to U.S. men’s team home matches, the away games had previously been shown in this country either on pay-per-view or in commercial establishments such as bars, according to executives on the panel. Now, fans’ ability to watch those games will depend on their access to beIN Sport.
Enrique Sanz, the general secretary of CONCACAF, which oversees national soccer in North America, South America and the Caribbean, said on the same panel that beIN Sport also bought rights to Central American and Canadian World Cup qualifying matches that previously were shown in bars and on pay-per-view. “Now they are going to cable,” he said. “There is growth in that, also.”
BeIN Sport, having seized the opportunity, will be investing in the matches and improving the production quality, Sanz said.
“They were undervalued as a domestic property,” Al Obaidly said. “We wanted to go there because it’s something we want to give to the U.S. fans of soccer. It’s their right to watch it in a TV network with the proper production, with the studio analysis, with the talent, rather than watch it on pay-per-view and just watch the match.”
The panel was moderated by Multichannel News news editor Mike Reynolds.