By Rob Morris
EXCLUSIVE: Media company looks to make live matches more widely available to fans.
Premier League fans in the Middle East may soon be able to watch live football matches via broadband or through their mobile phones, Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) revealed on Thursday.
Speaking exclusively to Arabian Business, ADMC said it was considering making football games from England’s top division available through as many mediums as possible. Only sports channel subscribers of Pay TV provider Showtime can currently watch every top flight clash during the English football season.
Karim Sarkis, executive director of broadcast at ADMC, said the company would screen all Premier League games on TV, and possibly other formats, when its three-year rights deal begins in August 2010.
“Between when Showtime won these rights (running from August 2007 to May 2010) and what is happening, there is in certain countries mobile and internet penetration,” he said. “Broadband penetration specifically has increased dramatically over the last three years, so we feel there is an untapped opportunity there to generate revenues and reach more people.
“Mobile is something that we think will be very exciting and HD is a possibility. A strength for us as a media company that doesn’t have its own pay-tv platform is we can look at these options and choose the best.”
On July 3, ADMC announced it had secured rights to show Premier League football on its sports channels for three seasons starting from August 2010. It is unclear whether commentary and pre and post-match coverage will be conducted in English, Arabic or both.
Having won the rights, ADMC is free to show all Premier League games on various formats and sub-let its channels to broadcasters across the region. The company can also sell advertising for each medium carrying top flight matches.
Talks with local pay TV providers to carry ADMC sports channels featuring Premier League matches will begin soon. The company has the option of choosing one or various broadcasters, Sarkis said.
“We’re not trying to start a bidding war; we are trying to find a way that gets our brand into as many households as possible with the least amount of inconvenience as possible,” he said. “The objective is to maximise the reach and work with as many partners as possible.
“We can go with multiple partner s and hopefully generate more revenue. If anything, the level of reach and coverage would be equal if not more than any previous rights holder.”
Showtime was confirmed as one potential partner that could still carry Premier League matches when its three-year deal runs out next August.
“We have informally let it be known we are looking at all the options, and of course Showtime would be one of the companies we would talk to. There are limited options for pay TV, so we know who the players are,” Sarkis said.
“When you look at Showtime, they have done a good job with the rights that they had so there shouldn’t be any reason why we couldn’t agree a formula that works for us and them.”
Why? You canâ€™t watch games on a mobile phone (the screen is far too small) and when you trying and stream games over the Internet it only works if you have a very high bandwidth and there are no other people sharing it, or you just end up staring at a message that says â€œ BUFFERINGâ€ while you miss the game. We want what we already have â€“ all the games live in one place on television. If the rights get split (i.e. Showtime have some, Orbit have others, Al Jazeera have some) then Iâ€™m not going to buy any of them. Splitting the rights was wildly hated by fans in Britain and let to a boycott that recently saw Setanta go under.
I totally agree with Barney.. Splitting will give the end user a headache to choose or eventually subscribing to all channels so as to view all games.With the current economic hardships do you expect us to shove all our savings to view Football or any other telly pay channels.I would highly urged and recommend AbuDhabi Sports to go for the cheap and best way and share rights with the best sports people and that is if you don't consider Jazeera Sports as your Competitor they are the best in handling sports and they are good in what they do.Or otherwise pin it with only one Company either be Showtime or Orbit ART is a control freak.Hope you don do what UK companies did and end loosing the business focus.
Forget about watching football on a mobile; it will not work. I hope ADMC plays it smart and let the newly merged Orbit Showtime handle the TV broadcasting. They have done a great job over the past couple of years