Al Jazeera could rival Sky for UK football TV rights

ESPN TV exec says Qatar broadcaster could challenge Sky to show Premier League
(AFP/Getty Images)
By Andy Sambidge
Wed 29 Feb 2012 05:58 PM

A senior TV executive has hinted that Qatar's Al Jazeera could challenge rival Sky for the rights to broadcast live Premier League football in the UK.

Ross Hair, ESPN's head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said he believes Al Jazeera could challenge Sky for the next three-year contract.

"We're expecting another Premier League auction in April or May," Hair said in comments published by the London-based Evening Standard.

"An Al Jazeera bid is a realistic prospect. They have done something very interesting in France in buying first division football against the incumbent satellite broadcaster Canal Plus and we've also looked at what they've done in other markets.

"You can draw parallels with the upcoming auction in the UK. Al Jazeera have the ambition to grow further in sport and into other markets."

Al Jazeera beat Canal Plus to the French Ligue 1 and Champions League rights last year.

Qatar was catapulted onto the global football scene in December 2010 when it was chosen to host the World Cup in 2022 while its investment arm last year took control of the French Ligue 1 team Paris St Germain.

Hair said Premier League clubs could be set for another huge cash windfall if the "realistic prospect" of Al Jazeera challenging rival Sky for the UK television rights comes to pass.

The English Premier League is the world's richest football league and its last three-year television deal, which runs out next season, brought in $5.4bn.

In Britain, Sky shows the lion's share of matches while ESPN broadcasts a lesser number of live matches and the BBC screens highlights.

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