Gulf TV networks priced out of Premier soccer rights, says OSN

OSN boss says prices paid by state media firms impossible to compete with
Gulf TV networks priced out of Premier soccer rights, says OSN
BIG DEAL: Showtime Arabia lost the exclusive rights to air Premier League football matches in April 2010, when Abu Dhabi Media Company bid a rumoured $300m for a three-year deal (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Wed 02 Feb 2011 04:05 PM

State-backed media firms in the Gulf have a near monopoly on TV rights for top footballing events as their deep pockets can out-bid rival networks, the CEO of Orbit Showtime Network (OSN)  has said.

Showtime Arabia lost the exclusive rights to air Premier League football matches in April 2010, when Abu Dhabi Media Company bid a rumoured $300m for a three-year deal.

This and similar bids are leaving commercial TV networks out in the cold as they are unable to match privately-funded stations on price, said David Butorac.

“The people who own the Premier League today cannot make money for what they’ve paid,” he told Arabian Business. “There are people who are paying for sports rights in this market that have no commercial imperative to make money.”

As a result, broadcast rights are being sold for increasingly sky-high sums, he added.

“The issue with sports rights is this market, is the sports rights have gone for uneconomic rates.”

Doha-backed Al Jazeera Sport last week secured the first broadcast deal for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.

Commercial rights to last year’s South Africa game were sold for $3.4bn.

Butorac, who took over as CEO of the Dubai-based firm in October, wouldn’t confirm how many subscribers OSN lost of a result of the Premiership League loss but said the impact on the network’s bottom line was minimal.

“We lost more in costs than we lost in revenues so it was actually a positive impact on our margins - losing the Premier League,” he said.

“That said I would love to have the Premier League, I would love to be in a position where all of the best sport in the world appeared on our platform.”

Asked if OSN would bid again, Butorac said he would do so but within a reasonable margin.

“We’ll bid rationally because irrational financial decisions cannot continue to be made.”

OSN was formed through a merger between Showtime Arabia and Orbit in 2009.

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