Qatar-based satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera has significantly strengthened its presence in France by snapping up four of the country’s five media rights packages for the UEFA Champions League from 2012-15.
Al Jazeera will broadcast 133 matches live across its television channels, internet and mobile services every season, and the broadcaster has also committed to “significant pre-match preview programming and highlights” on both Champions League match nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The broadcaster recently acquired domestic rights to Ligue 1 in France from 2012-16, and the acquisition of Champions League rights represents another major step into the European market. Al Jazeera has also tabled a €130 million bid for French rights to UEFA Euro 2012, reportedly a higher figure than rival offers from TF1 and M6’s joint-bid of €100 million.
Reports in the French media suggest that Al Jazeera will pay €61 million (US$81.5 million) a year for the rights, around double what current rights holder Canal Plus is paying for the packages.
The broadcaster recently refused to comment on reports that it is considering entering the UK sports pay-television market by bidding for domestic English Premier League broadcast rights from the 2013-14 season. Al Jazeera, which announced recently that it would launch a new sports news channel in the Middle East and North Africa and also linked up with digital sports media company Perform to launch streaming service Al Jazeera Sport TV, is thought to be planning to launch or acquire its own channel in France, to provide a platform for its rights, and has spoken to Orange about such a project.
“UEFA welcomes the opportunity to develop a partnership with Al Jazeera in France,” read a statement from UEFA. “We highly value their production expertise and commitment towards the UEFA Champions League in the Middle East and North Africa and we look forward to being part of their channel development in France. The level of interest in the UEFA Champions League rights confirms the continuing strength of the competition.”
The remaining Champions League package – the premium live match package of 13 first-choice live match picks, including coverage of the final and the weekly magazine show – is still to be awarded. In addition, no rights have been awarded so far for the UEFA Europa League in France. The deal was brokered by Team Marketing, the marketing partner of European football’s governing body for its top club competitions. Last week it was announced that Nasser al-Khelaifi, the president of Al Jazeera Sport and chairman of French Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain, had been named Sports Innovator of the year by SportBusiness International magazine.