By Andy Sambidge
ESPN TV exec says Qatar broadcaster could challenge Sky to show Premier League
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.
If their treatment of the Six Nations is anything to go by, then the Premier League beware - money is not everything if the fans are not able to watch the games.
As far as the Six Nations experience goes this year; one match that should have been broadcast live was delayed by four hours and another switched from AJS3 to AJS10 - both without warning. The quality of broadcast is debateable with numerous audio and video freezes during matches.
AJ paid over the odds for the rights to the 6N and yet cannot seem to apply a decent standard of broadcasting to the event.
A case of my pot is bigger than yours.
One can only hope that they don't get it. I don't watch soccer much but if the way that Al Jazeera has abused rugby fans by buying the rights (current 6 Nations) and then randomly deciding not to broadcast key games as advertised and showing something else instead (presumably at the whim of a "top person" who prefers something else that day) .... then you can all cancel your subscriptions now.
Well I hope they get their act together if they win. Interupted coverage of big matches without explanation or apology! Lousy pictures via Firstnet and not much better if you buy their card direct. No response to e-mail complaints. Signal cut off without warning when subscription runs out. No way to renew over the phone. Do they actually get anything right?
I am an avid supporter of Al Jezeera especially their English news broadcast service. Excellent service; I watch it daily together with BBC ansd SKY.
However, when it comes to their sports broadcasting it is, sadly to say, unprofessional, amateurish, simply appalling. At any one time there are only few hours of schedules on their EPG and that also can be inaccurate. It shows total indifference to the expectations of their customers.
Money may be king but in the end they will pay the price. I hope that the Premier League authorities, if they decide to award the rights to AJSports, they attach enough conditions to wake AJSport out of their stupor and complacency.
Abu Dhabi sports TV is just as bad, by the way.