beIN SPORT recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, but there’s still no sign of the network on television in Canada, where they have the exclusive rights to Serie A, La Liga and Ligue Un.
In an interview with Yahoo, deputy managing director for beIN Sport Antonio Briceño had this to say:
“We are very keen to launch in Canada. My top priority personally right now is to launch in Canada. We do have the application prepared and ready to go. The regulatory environment in Canada is very particular, and we need to have a sponsor to get coverage there. That’s what we are working on. Yes, it’s true that if you go to the (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) website, you’re not going to find an application pending approval at this very moment. Before we can even apply, we first need to find a sponsor. That has proven to be more challenging than we originally expected. We are working very hard every day, and want to launch in Canada as soon as possible.”
In July, I wrote an article about beIN SPORT not being available in Canada and the impact it has had on Canadians not being able to access some prominent European leagues such as Serie A and La Liga. Since it was published, I’ve had responses from beIN Sport personalities Jeremy St. Louis and Ian Paul Joy, who were both empathetic to the situation. While I was encouraged by their responses, the fact remains that the network still is unavailable to Canadians.
I contacted several of the major satellite and cable providers in Canada, including Bell, Shaw, Telus, and Rogers Cable. Each provider indicated that it was aware that the rights to the Spanish, Italian, and French Leagues were acquired by another entity, but other than the customer making a channel request, there was nothing they could do. The other issue is that the CRTC, the entity that regulates Canadian television and radio channels, has been notoriously difficult when dealing with new TV networks. For instance, the CRTC frowns upon networks having exclusive rights to particular programs and instead attempts to mandate sharing of those rights with Canadian broadcasters. As beIN SPORT has exclusive rights to several of the top soccer leagues, this is a sticking point in trying to get beIN SPORT on Canadian airwaves.
With that in mind, I offer the following two suggestions of how beIN SPORT can make its content available to soccer fans in Canada:
beIN SPORT sub-licenses its rights to another Canadian TV network. I mentioned in my previous article that another network had stated on its website that it was interested in working with beIN SPORT to air its La Liga games. Unfortunately, that interest didn’t result in any games being aired last season. Partnering with an existing channel would definitely increase the speed in beIN SPORT getting its games into Canada. However, from a business standpoint, the issue for beIN SPORT would be that it would not generate any more recognition for its own brand. In addition, beIN would likely not have a lot of leverage in potential negotiations with other networks given its situation with the CRTC. If a solution could be reached which was mutually beneficial, viewers in Canada would get beIN SPORT acquired leagues on their televisions fairly soon.
beIN SPORT offers an online service via subscription. Given the difficulty of CRTC’s regulations, beIN SPORT could offer a subscription-based service for its viewers. Currently, only individuals with active subscriptions to beIN SPORT with their cable providers in the US have access to viewing the network online (and, even then, only a select number of participating TV providers are offering the online component). Having an online presence would help mitigate some of the damage caused by not having its own network and would allow fans to get easy, clean and stable access to games online. While it wouldn’t solve the long-term solution of having beIN SPORT on television, having an online stream would generate revenue as well as give the fans an alternative way to watch their favorite teams in the interim.
Based on the responses I received from beIN SPORT talent, I genuinely believe that beIN SPORT wants to get its content into Canada. While I still take issue with the lack of foresight beIN SPORT had in understanding the CRTC regulations, the bottom line is that as a soccer fan, I’d like to have the network available to Canadians in some form. While the Barclays Premier League remains the most popular league to watch, being able to have regular access to the other leagues will only help the sport’s growing popularity in Canada. Hopefully, beIN SPORT will be able to find a timely solution. If that happens, everyone from the viewer to beIN SPORT wins and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?