Facing a difficult situation in their six-year history as a broadcaster in the United States, beIN SPORTS is adamant that they’re not going away even though AT&T and Comcast recently dropped the channels from their TV programming.
Speaking to World Soccer Talk, beIN SPORTS’ deputy managing director for the U.S. and Canada Antonio Briceño had strong words regarding the situation that has left beIN SPORTS removed from the number one cable TV provider Comcast Xfinity and the number one satellite provider DIRECTV.
“We will not be bullied by any company,” he said. “We have 100% of support from our shareholders to continue operating in this country. beIN SPORTS is not going away.”
The challenge that beIN SPORTS faces is trying to compete in a TV industry that is largely controlled and influenced by the media giants. beIN SPORTS wants to expand its distribution of its channels so they’re available on the same tiers as NBCSN and Universo, two channels that are owned and operated by NBC Universal Media whose parent company is Comcast.
At the same time, the biggest soccer property that NBC Sports has the rights to is the Premier League, which is in direct competition with LaLiga, the Spanish league that is exclusively shown on beIN SPORTS. As unfair as that sounds, it’s therefore not surprising that Comcast is seemingly attempting to hold beIN SPORTS back and not allow it to be on the same level playing field as their own sports channels. Trying to limit the distribution of beIN SPORTS helps the business interests of Comcast, a media giant that has a monopoly in many markets across the country.
“I will tell [soccer fans] don’t drink the Kool Aid,” said Briceño. “Don’t let them tell you ‘Oh beIN [SPORTS] just wanted to raise their rates.’ If you go into the Comcast [headquarters], and I’ve done it myself, they tell you that [Comcast] is in negotiations with us. They’re not. They broke the negotiations. We are here. We are a phone call away for Comcast, DIRECTV and any other company that wants to recognize that there is value that we bring to the proposition to this country and to the fans. We’re a small and independent company, but that doesn’t mean we’re not committed to the product that we deliver.”
For soccer fans in the United States, the three biggest complaints about beIN SPORTS are that (1) their channels aren’t available in HD in many markets, (2) authentication to the additional soccer games on beIN SPORTS Connect is not available, or (3) beIN SPORTS isn’t available at all. All three of these issues are the result of the media giants limiting the availability of beIN SPORTS. Before removing beIN SPORTS entirely, Comcast only offered the channel in SD for years while their NBCSN and Universo channels were in HD.
Unsurprisingly, beIN SPORTS filed a complaint with the FCC in March against Comcast Xfinity. The complaint was dismissed by the FCC in August. “The case wasn’t dismissed,” clarified Briceño. “It was dismissed without prejudice. I know it might sound like a technicality but there is a difference between the two because if they would have dismissed it, it would have meant ‘what you’re saying has no grounds and we don’t believe in your argument.’ That’s not what happened. What they said was there was insufficient information presented by us for them to make a ruling one way or another, so we could actually go and refile that case in a certain period of time and present the information that they said they were missing. We’re in the process of deciding whether that’s something we want to pursue.”
When asked what soccer fans could do to protest other than making their voices heard across social media and filing complaints with their TV provider, Briceño replied, “If that’s not their preference (to call DIRECTV or Comcast and file a complaint), then show them you’re angry by switching. Go and support the guys that are supporting us like Verizon Fios, fuboTV, Spectrum, DISH and Cablevision, and show your discontent by switching to these [providers]. That’s the beauty of this country where we can choose and go to competitors.”
We posed the question to Briceño whether other cable and satellite providers could follow the same path that Comcast and AT&T have taken by removing beIN SPORTS.
“We are in negotiations with [other] companies, and I cannot guarantee whether they are going to change their tune and try to be like [Comcast and AT&T]. What I can promise you is that we will not be bullied,” he said. “And if the deal is not the deal that makes sense and [provides] the most availability to the fans, we will reject it.”
Looking to the future, Briceño said that beIN SPORTS is actively looking for more soccer TV rights to add to their portfolio in addition to the rights they already have with LaLiga, Ligue 1, Turkish Super Lig and others. “We are looking for content that is compelling. And any opportunity that makes sense to bring more soccer to America that is live and engaging, we will go after it.”
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