Al Jazeera to Kick Off Pair of Soccer Channels in U.S. this August5/17/2012 3:58 PM Eastern
There will be a new pair of soccer networks kicking it around for Stateside distribution and viewers this summer.
Available in both English and Spanish, beIn Sport is part of the multiplatform sports services launching across Europe and the Middle East by Al Jazeera Sports this summer.
The services, eyeing an August 1 launch, will present a host of top-flight international soccer fare, including Spain's top circuit La Liga, France's premier division, La Ligue Un (English-only), Italy's Serie A, the Copa America tournament, and South American World Cup qualifiers ahead of FIFA's 2014 tournament in Brazil.
beIn Sport has contracted with Miami-headquartered Imagina US to handle distribution and provide technical support in this country.
All told, the services are slated to present more than 1300 live soccer matches annually via linear and online platforms to authenticated viewers.
"We are very proud to bring to the American community a new way of watching sports, a better way, where all platforms come together to provide a truly customized and totally unprecedented depth of interactive experience to the viewer," said Yousef Al Obaidli, managing director of beIN Sport in a statement. " We are working together with Imagina US as our partner, and we are already in the last stages of negotiation with different providers having secured two major deals so far that will bring the channel to subscribers homes on August 1.
In an interview, Antonio Briceño, vice president of affiliate sales for Imagina US, said: "We don't expect to have 100% distribution at launch, but we will reach enough homes at launch to satisfy the business plan." He expects beIN Sport to gain further distribution over time.
Although he would not identify the providers that beIn Sport was in advanced carriage talks, Briceño insisted that the matches would be available to U.S. soccer fans this upcoming season. "You may have to switch providers," he noted.
The rights the networks have secured come from a trio of U.S. soccer proponents. La Liga and Spain's flanking Copa del Rey tournament have been televised by GolTV, since 2003; the quadrennial Copa America tournament, the South American equivalent of the Euro championship, was televised by Univision during its most recent iteration in 2011; and Fox Soccer and primarily premium service Fox Soccer Plus have been the domestic home to France's La Ligue Un, while those services and Fox Deportes have aired Serie A action.
At presstime, officials at Gol TV, Univision and Fox Soccer, who were in Munich for Saturday's UEFA Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich, were all unavailable for comment.
Although beIn Sport won't officially launch until August, the service will begin providing feeds in June, showcasing the South American World Cup qualifiers. Briceño said Imagina US was nearing deals for residential pay-per-view distributions for the matches scheduled on June 2 and June 9.
Briceño deferred questions about why the matches were not being incorporated as part of programming on Al Jazeera English, or whether beIn Sports will participate in the rights auction for England's Barclays Premiere League, which is expected to take place late this summer or in the fall, to Al Obaidli, who was not available at presstime. Al Jazeera English only has managed to gain limited distribution in the U.S.
As of right now, Briceño said beIn Sport has no plans to sublicense the rights it has obtained in the U.S. whatsoever. Under GolTV's expiring La Liga contract, it sublicensed some match rights to ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and broadband service ESPN3.com. Through a pact with Fox Sports International, Fox Soccer holds the rights to BPL through the end of the 2012-13 season, with some of those matches sublicensed to ESPN2.
In France on June 1, beIn Sport will launch a pair of channels, fueled by rights to La Ligue Un, next month's Euro championship and the Champions League.