Armchair fan's guide to watching sports in the Middle East

With OSN dumping all of its sports coverage earlier this year, which channel can you now find your favourite sports?
Armchair fan's guide to watching sports in the Middle East
Armchair football fans in the Middle East, who have been left kicking their heels over the summer in anticipation of the new domestic season, only have a short while to wait before the action starts in earnest again.
By Gavin Gibbon
Wed 31 Jul 2019 02:11 PM

Armchair football fans in the Middle East, who have been left kicking their heels over the summer in anticipation of the new domestic season, only have a short while to wait before the action starts in earnest again.

And cricket fans will be bowled over by coverage of The Ashes as England and Australia do battle for bragging rights from Thursday.

While the action is hotting up in Formula One as British driver Lewis Hamilton closes in on a sixth championship title.

However, fans of other sports can’t tune in as easily, with the industry still reeling from the decision by Middle East direct-broadcast satellite provider OSN to drop all of its sports coverage earlier this year.

At the time, CEO Patrick Tillieux was quoted in BroadcastPro to say that OSN will be “redirecting our investments from sports to content that our customers enjoy the most”.

Supporters of South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia have been hit with a television broadcast blackout of this year’s Rugby Championship. And currently no deals been agreed to show either the Rugby World Cup 2019 on television or continued coverage of PGA Golf.

Football

Bein Sports have the football rights, with action from the English Premier League and Championship, The FA Cup and Caribou Cup as well as the Charity Shield, which is held on Sunday and features Manchester City against Liverpool.

The broadcaster also covers La Liga, Serie A, the German Bundesliga, French League 1 and the Scottish Premier League. They are the go-to place for coverage of the UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup, Copa America and CAF Confederation Cup.

While, on the international front there are all the games from the UEFA Nations League and European Championships qualifiers as well as the World Cup.

Cricket

Bein Sports also holds a six-year rights agreement with the England and Wales Cricket Board for international and domestic cricket coverage in the Middle East and North Africa – which includes the eagerly anticipated Ashes series against Australia.

It encompasses action from the T20 Blast, Royal London One-Day Cup, the Specsavers County Championship and the ECB’s new eight-team T20 competition which launches in 2020.

Bein also has exclusive rights to broadcast the VIVO Indian Premier League and a long-term rights agreement, signed in 2017 with Cricket Australia, includes the popular Big Bash League.

Tennis

The Grand Slam tennis tournaments are also part of Bein Sports’ stable. Tennis fans in the region have been able to watch Novak Djokavic and Naomi Osaka triumph in the Australian Open; the French Open titles were won by Rafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty, and Djokovic and Simona Halep most recently win at Wimbledon. Coverage from the US Open at Flushing Meadow starts at the end of August.

Formula One

In terms of F1, Dubai-based MBC Group won the rights to broadcast the FIA Formula One races in the Middle East and North Africa region earlier this year. The broadcaster offers F1 racing free-to-air under the deal which gives MBC five-year exclusive rights to show all 21 races.

Rugby

Arguably one of the biggest casualties has been rugby. Currently there is no coverage of The Rugby Championship. Despite contacting them several times for comment on current and future plans, nobody from The Rugby Championship responded.

While, as revealed by Arabian Business earlier this month, no television broadcaster had been secured as yet for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, which kicks off in September.

Dominic Young, media sales executive at World Rugby, said: “We are currently in discussions with the market and when these are concluded I will be able to confirm the broadcast partner.

“For any match that is not broadcast by our broadcast partner these will be available to view via World Rugby’s platforms.”

In terms of European Professional Club Rugby and Pro14, in 2018 Flo Sports signed a multiyear partnership to broadcast in the MENA region.

More than 70 matches, including the knockout rounds of the Challenge Cup, are streamed on the FloRugby.com platform.

Golf

Golf fans in the Middle East were left disappointed earlier this year when both the US PGA Championship and US Open were restricted to featured group and featured hole coverage online – both tournaments were previously covered by OSN.

The Open Championship from Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, won by Irishman Shane Lowry, was streamed live by the R&A on TheOpen.com.

And while fans can subscribe to Golf TV to watch action from the PGA Tour, Brian Williams, director of business development, PGA Tour International, said no television broadcaster had been secured as yet.

“We recognise and appreciate the popularity of the PGA TOUR in the Middle East and we are exploring all possible options to bring coverage back to TV. Golf fans can still watch every shot from every tournament by subscribing to GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR which is available on all mobile and web devices,” he said.

Olympics

It may be a year away but there’s always huge excitement when it comes to the Olympics.

The XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo will be broadcast by Bein, from the lighting of the Olympic flame through to the closing ceremony.

The agreement, which was signed with the international Olympic Committee in 2015, includes coverage rights for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the Olympics in Paris in 2024. It also includes the right to broadcast all editions of the Youth Olympic Games until 2024.

Horse racing

Dubai Racing Channel, which was first launched in 2008, specialises in broadcasting horse racing, camel racing and falconry sports in the UAE in general and Dubai in particular.

The channel specialises in its coverage and broadcasting of all types of local and international sports, and has been conferred the rights to broadcast horse racing in Dubai, Britain and Ireland, in addition to broadcasting important international races from Japan, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, France, making it the first sports channel in the Middle East to present horse races from the tracks of the USA.

US sports

For fans of American sports, Bein Sports has viewing covered, with the rights to broadcast the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

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