By Paul Kennedy
The arrival of Al Jazeera's beIN SPORT's has shaken the U.S. soccer television market. It acquired media rights to three of the five most popular European leagues, Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A and France's Ligue 1, leaving only Fox and ESPN with a share of England's Premier League and GolTV with Germany's Bundesliga.
What will the impact be? One industry analyst warned ratings on beIN SPORT "are going to be so low that they will be almost unmeasurable."
Shepherding viewers from one network to another is one thing. But getting them to switch to a new network on a new channel is another.
What makes beIN SPORT's challenge even greater is the existing audience for these European leagues whose media rights it has acquired is so low to begin with.
Here are Nielsen's average viewing figures, as reported by AP, for the 2011-12 season:
La Liga (Spain)
115,000 ESPN Deportes
Serie A (Italy)
54,000 Fox Soccer
Ligue 1 (France)
53,000 Fox Soccer
ESPN Deportes' figures are inflated by the two Barcelona-Real Madrid games, which averaged 777,000 viewers.
By a wide margin, the soccer league that draws the best in the United States is England's Premier League:
185,000 Fox Soccer
58,000 ESPN Deportes
Fox holds EPL media rights through the 2012-13 season. (ESPN holds a portion of the rights as a sublicensee). The EPL is expected to send out a request for proposal soon for the subsequent three years.
If beIN SPORT wants to make a splash in the U.S. market, it will need to snatch those EPL rights away from Fox.
BEIN SPORT ON XFINITY. In its first major breakthrough into the cable market, new soccer network beIN SPORT reached an agreement with Comcast to be placed on the cable system's Xfinity TV.
The announcement comes only a day after beIN SPORT announced it had bought up the media rights to all but one of the USA's away World Cup 2014 qualifiers, beginning with the Sept. 7 game at Jamaica.
beIN SPORT will be available in English on the Xfinity TV Sports Entertainment Package and in Spanish on the Xfinity TV MultiLatino Package. Availability of both channels will vary by market.
beIN SPORT content will also be available on Comcast’s Xfinity On Demand and its online and mobile platforms.
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