beIN Sports: Al Jazeera’s New US Network For La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un and Other Soccer

Al Jazeera’s new sports network in the United States will be named beIN Sports, an industry source has revealed to EPL Talk.

The name is consistent with Al Jazeera’s summer launch of two new channels in France named beIN Sport 1 and beIN Sport 2. “[The name] symbolises the mind of two channels aiming at bringing live and exclusive broadcasting of the biggest events, “ said Nasser Al Khelaifi, the director of Al Jazeera Sports.

Slowly but surely, Al Jazeera has been acquiring rights to some of the top soccer leagues in the world. In the United States, that includes TV and Internet rights to La Liga, Serie A and Ligue Un. In France, Al Jazeera has acquired rights to UEFA Champions League and Ligue Un. And that’s just the start. According to a source, Al Jazeera is prepared to spend big to acquire other rights packages. With the Premier League TV and Internet rights going on auction this year for the United Kingdom, Europe, United States and the rest of the world, it’s no surprise that Al Jazeera is making some industry executives very uneasy.

The source to EPL Talk added that Al Jazeera has hired Imagina US, a Miami-based production company that specializes in the US hispanic industry. Imagina US has been advising Al Jazeera as well as being involved in building a facility for Al Jazeera in South Florida. The two beINSport networks in France are being produced by Mediapro. Imagina US, meanwhile, is a subsidiary of Mediapro, a Barcelona-based company.

beIN Sports has hired executive Frédéric Chevit to coordinate the international launch of beIN Sports’s channels.

In the meantime, beIN Sports has been busy acquiring domain names in preparation for its US launch. beINSports.tv, beINSports.net and beINsports.org were registered by the company last month.

The big question about the upcoming launch of beIN Sports in the United States is whether the network will be ready and available via most major cable and satellite TV providers across the United States before the seasons kick off in August. Al Jazeera Sports is currently only available in Arabic on DISH Network. And as we know from experience, it sometimes takes several years before niche networks such as FOX Soccer (HD), FOX Soccer Plus and GolTV are available across major providers.

beIN Sports acquiring GolTV could be a solution to get the network in more US homes, but GolTV’s value in the market has been severely damaged by losing La Liga TV rights. If beIN Sport passes on an opportunity to acquire GolTV, subscribers to GolTV may begin to flee once they find out that La Liga is no longer available on that network. Plus, TV providers such as DirecTV may want to renegotiate how much it pays GolTV per subscriber now that its crown jewel of soccer TV rights is gone.

GolTV and Al Jazeera has been reached for comment, but neither broadcaster has responded to our requests. GolTV meanwhile has forbidden its employees from speaking to the press (including blogs).

When asked for comment about the developing story of beIN Sport’s entry into the US market as well as how beIN Sport may impact auction rights deals, a FOX Sports spokesperson said, “It’s a free country. As soccer’s popularity grows in the US, it’s natural to assume that bidding on world-class rights will be more competitive in the future.”

While true, the question that all soccer fans are asking is “How will this impact me?” With Al Jazeera (aka beIN Sports) and Imagina US failing to respond to requests, we’re in the dark as much as you are. I think it’s high time that beIN Sport lets the public know what its plans are.

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