By Paul Kennedy
Qatar shook up the soccer world when it beat out the United States and two other nations that previously hosted the World Cup and won the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera, best known as the CNN of the Middle East, has entered the soccer television and gobbled up rights to domestic and international matches away from Canal Plus in France and threatens to take on giants Fox and ESPN.
Al-Jazeera has launched the network beIN Sport in France to air coverage of Ligue 1 and UEFA Champions League games.
The premium Al-Jazeera is willing to pay will be a big boost for French clubs, coming at a time when interest in Ligue 1 is sagging.
In addition, Canal Plus and Al-Jazeera will share the French rights to the UEFA Champions League, Bundesliga and Serie A games, pushing its investment in France alone to $400 million in rights fees.
The most lucrative soccer rights in the world are to the English Premier League, and Al-Jazeera is reportedly prepared to take on BSkyB, which holds a majority stake in EPL rights.
The EPL would love a competitor to take on BSkyB and boost its next rights deal up for bid this year. Al-Jazeera may not be able to beat out at BSkyB but it might cut our ESPN, which holds rights to a sliver of the EPL TV pie.
Al-Jazeera, already a sports powerhouse in the Middle East and Africa with two free and 15 pay channels, plus an English version, is also moving into the United States.
According to the website EPL Talk, Al-Jazeera will wrest the U.S. rights to Italy's Serie A and Spain's La Liga away from Fox Soccer and Gol TV and could bid on the EPL rights held by Fox and ESPN for 2013-16.
The Spanish TV deal is bad news for Gol TV -- which could be an Al-Jazeera target to gain a foothold on the U.S. programming dial -- and for Univision, which would have used La Liga to boost interest in its new Deportes channel.
As a for Fox, it can't afford to lose EPL rights. Al-Jazeera's foray into the U.S. market comes at a time Fox needs to build its audience in anticipation of its coverage of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
SPONSORSHIP FRONT. Subaru has signed a two-year deal as the presenting sponsor of the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup between the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake. The two clubs have played for the supporters-initiated trophy since RSL joined the league in 2005. RSL won the first game of 2012 with a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
ONLINE WATCH. More than 80 live USL PRO games will be available online through USL Live. In May, USL Live will move to UNATION, a new events and branding network that will give fans the ability to chat and interact during live game broadcasts.
RADIO WAVES. Sports Radio 810 WHB will be the new official radio home of Sporting Kansas City. It will air six six SKC home matches as well as air a postgame show, The Final Whistle: Sporting KC Postgame after each game. The show will run in addition to a new weekly soccer show on 810 WHB. The station has a listening area that includes the states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
EASY LISTENING. To learn more about MLS digital and social media initiatives, listen to Pat Coyle's interview with Chris Schlosser, MLS Digital's general manager at coylemedia.com.
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