By Paul Nicholson
December 18 – The Premier League has renewed its broadcast rights partnership with beIN SPORTS for the Middle East and North Africa region for a new three-year terms running through to 2025.
The deal, reckoned to worth $500 million, gives beIN rights to all 380 matches live per season across 24 countries, including Saudi Arabia, and is a significant renewal for the Premier League at a time when broadcast rights fees are under increasing pressure.
The Qatari broadcaster is banned from Saudi Arabia as part of the soft politics of the economic blockade of Qatar. With the launch of a pirate channel – beoutQ – focussed on the Saudi market, and stealing beIN-acquired rights on an “industrial scale”, came a major international campaign to enforce sports rights holders and beIN’s intellectual property from illegal retransmission.
The Premier League were in the vanguard of that campaign as they battled to retain control of their copyright in the region and support their paying partner beIN Sport. The renewed deal with beIN recognises the lead the Premier League has taken in that battle.
What is significant is the scale of the renewal with beIN having warned that if their broadcasts were not protected they would be forced to drop their prices, in some cases by as much as 50%, and in the case of Formula1, completely.
Chairman of beIN MEDIA GROUP, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, said: “We are delighted to renew our long-established and trusted partnership with the Premier League through to 2025.
“This deal demonstrates that rights-holders who do the most to protect their intellectual property also do the most to protect the value of their media rights.”
The reality is that beIN are the only major pan-regional rights buyer and while Saudi Arabia wanted to break beIN’s grip on rights, there is ultimately no other player capable or willing to match the rights fee beIN will pay. beIN has been a partner of the Premier League since 2013 and over that time has invested about $2 billion in broadcast rights with them.
The extent to which Saudi Arabia are out in the cold as far as the Premier League is concerned is reflected in the failure of the Saudi attempts to buy Newcastle United (for a sum less that beIN is paying for the broadcast rights for the 2022-2025 cycle).
However, Saudi Arabia remains a potentially important broadcast market – both for beIN and the Premier League – though Premier League games cannot be broadcast legally in the kingdom. Signs are within the Saudi Arabian FA that the country is taking a more outward looking approach with a bid for the 2027 Asian Cup as it attempts to restore its image. Allowing Premier League broadcasts into the country via beIN would be a big step in that direction, but would be a similarly big step in relation to the geo-political stand-off between the two nations. At this stage, although there appears to be signs of a potential thawing of relations, it still looks like a step too far.
Even so, for the Premier League the renewal is a good ‘win’.
“We are pleased to agree a significant deal with beIN SPORTS, who are a longstanding and valued partner. They have an outstanding track record of delivering top-quality Premier League content across all its platforms,” said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.
“Our clubs have millions of passionate fans across the Middle East and North Africa and beIN has played an important part in promoting the Premier League and helping engage those fans with our clubs and players.” Except in Saudi Arabia, of course.
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