Magazine article Variety

Al Jazeera: Big League Player

Magazine article Variety

Al Jazeera: Big League Player

Article excerpt

News giant zeroes in on sports rights

Will Al Jazeera change the world of global sports the way it changed global news?

In mid-July, Spain's El Economista reported that the Qatar-based network was putting the finishing touches on a bid to buy Mediapro, which owns rights to most Spanish soccer clubs, including Real Madrid and Barcelona.

It's the latest move into sports by BeIN Sport, a subsidiary of the newsie's Al Jazeera Sports Media Network. Last year BeIN Sport bought broadcast rights to all U.S. qualifying matches outside the States for the 2014 World Cup (terms of the deal were not revealed). Its Gallic BeIN channels air French Ligue 1 soccer matches on Gaul's Canal Plus.

BelN's American channel also owns rights to Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A, as well as all South American and Concacaf World Cup qualifiers, except Mexico.

Al Jazeera, funded by Qatar's government, has deep pockets and changed the news biz as it paid top dollar to set up bureaus, hire key personnel from BBC and CNN, and make savvy carriage deals for its attractive programming.

As it makes other moves - Al Jazeera paid $500 million earlier this year for Al Gore's Current TV to gain carriage in 41 million U. …

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