Cable Operators

New Player on Crowded Soccer Pitch, BeIn Sport, Set to Launch Aug. 15

7/30/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

BeIn Sport will kick off its pair of soccer channels
next month. The question is how many affiliates
will be in its distribution net.

Brandishing rights to Spain’s top circuit, La Liga;
France’s premier division, La Ligue Un (Englishonly);
and Italy’s Serie A, beIn Sport is targeting an
Aug. 15 kickoff for both English- and Spanish-language
services.

They add to a growing roster of U.S. outlets presenting
international soccer matches and garnering
increased ratings. But they also come at a time
when distributors are looking to contain rising program
costs.

Miami-headquartered Imagina US, handling
distribution and providing technical support, continues
to negotiate with potential affiliates and is
sanguine that a couple will be on board at launch.

“We’re 99% sure there will be at least one distributor
at launch, and two continues to be the goal,”
Antonio Briceño, vice president of affiliate sales for
Imagina US, said. “And we expect more over time.”

A survey of leading U.S. distributors last week
indicated that some were engaged in negotiations
with Imagina US, but none had struck any deals.

One executive at a large provider, though, said the
company had not heard anything meaningful from
Imagina US. “There have been some phone conversations,
but nothing formal,” the industry veteran
said. “They’re not negotiating with us. Please send
the deck. There hasn’t been anything in writing.”

Briceño said term sheets with conditions had
been sent to all major distributors, though not to
“all of the small operators.”

Sources in the U.S. TV sports community said
there was some question as to whether beIn Sport
actually holds all of the La Liga rights in the U.S.

Spanish-media company Prisa TV is currently
speaking with sports agencies about representing
the rights for a number of the teams here, with a
decision coming perhaps as early as this week.

La Liga has 20 teams, including world-renowned
sides FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, whose respective
rosters include Lionel Messi and Cristiano
Ronaldo, arguably the globe’s two top players.

Briceño said he had been focused on the operational
side and was not aware of any specific complications
that would put beIn Sport’s U.S. rights
to La Liga in jeopardy.

The networks also hold rights to South American
World Cup qualifiers ahead of FIFA’s 2014 tournament
in Brazil.

Matches the networks have secured previously
aired on Gol TV, ESPN2, Fox Soccer, Fox Soccer
Plus, Fox Deportes and Univision.

BeIn Sport later plans to stream channels to authenticated
subscribers.

September