The rapidly emerging Saudi Pro League made a major move by securing a broadcasting deal with streaming service DAZN in the UK. The landmark deal provides exposure and credibility to a league trying to build on its prominence ahead of a key season in the league. The agreement has DAZN show every game live from the Saudi top flight this season. High-profile arrivals like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are now available to audiences in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and other parts of Europe.
The influx of football superstars to Saudi Arabia has shaken up the sport, with clubs bankrolled by the nation’s Public Investment Fund able to offer astronomical wages to tempt big names from Europe’s elite leagues. Ronaldo’s shock switch from Manchester United to join Al-Nassr in January brought unprecedented attention. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is earning a reported $211 million per year in the Middle East.
Other star recruits include ex-Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson at Al-Ettifaq, newly crowned Ballon d’Or winner Benzema at Al-Nassr, and others joining rival clubs.
DAZN makes a low-cost gamble with Saudi Pro League deal in UK
The concentration of talent has boosted the profile and competitiveness of the Saudi Pro League. DAZN will aim to capitalize on the influx of household names familiar to European fans, according to The Athletic, which broke the news. Previously, the UK rights had drawn limited interest.
Sky Sports showed some of Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr games last season but viewership was low. This time around, neither Sky nor BT Sport bid for the rights. But DAZN seized the opportunity, paying a reported $500,000 for the one-year UK rights. This represents a low-risk punt for DAZN, while the Saudis are prioritizing exposure over revenue in this early growth stage.
The long game
If the league’s new names can bring entertainment and eyes to screens, interest in the competition could rapidly accelerate. That would increase the value of Saudi domestic rights in future cycles. The Qatar World Cup brought Gulf football to new audiences. Now, the Saudi Pro League is ambitiously positioning itself as the next big destination. The quality of foreign recruits suggests it is a bandwagon worth watching for European fans.
PHOTO: IMAGO / AFLOSPORT
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