Spain’s economic crisis creates opportunity for Al Jazeera

A refusal by Span­ish com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion sta­tions to bid at cur­rent rates for rights to broad­cast next season’s top league Span­ish soc­cer match­es cre­ates an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera net­work to advance its push into Europe and to become the world’s pre­mier glob­al broad­cast­er.

A bid for Span­ish rights would reaf­firm Al Jazeera’s strat­e­gy of mov­ing in behind oth­er Qatar gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tions as they con­clude spon­sor­ship agree­ments and acqui­si­tions such as the win­ning of the host­ing the 2022 World Cup and in France. It would also fit with the broadcaster’s move into mar­kets such as Egypt in antic­i­pa­tion that they will gen­er­ate rev­enue at a lat­er stage rather than imme­di­ate­ly and Qatar’s strat­e­gy of employ­ing sports and media to lever­age its glob­al influence. 

More than any­thing else, Al Jazeera and the 2022 World Cup have put Qatar, a tiny city state, on the world map. With Al Jazeera, Qatar rewrote the Mid­dle East and North Africa’s media land­scape, which until then was dom­i­nat­ed by heav­i­ly cen­sored state-owned broad­cast­ers. Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khal­i­fa Al Thani, ignored with few excep­tions the protests of Al Jazeera’s often free­wheel­ing jour­nal­ism by var­i­ous Arab lead­ers as well as ini­tial US gov­ern­ment por­tray­als of Al Jazeera as an Al Qae­da mouthpiece. 

Al Jazeera has spent an esti­mat­ed $400 mil­lion in the last year for broad­cast rights to France’s soc­cer league, the Cham­pi­ons League and Europa League, as well as some top Ger­man and Ital­ian match­es. It also con­clud­ed a $225 mil­lion spon­sor­ship deal with FC Barcelona and a mem­ber of the roy­al fam­i­ly has bought FC Malaga. 

Al Jazeera’s oppor­tu­ni­ty in Spain emerged after the country’s major com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion sta­tions, Ante­na 3 de Tele­vi­sion SA (A3TV) and Medi­aset Espana Comu­ni­ca­cion SA (TL5), said that they would only bid in June for the soc­cer league broad­cast rights if rates were dropped by half. Reduced rates how­ev­er could put the finan­cial future of the Span­ish league in jeop­ardy with play­ers wor­ried that clubs may not be able to hon­our their contracts. 

The Span­ish League gen­er­ates annu­al tele­vi­sion rev­enues of approx­i­mate­ly $600 mil­lion. Busi­ness Week quot­ed Ante­na 3 as say­ing that Rival La Sex­ta, with which it is merg­ing, paid $78 mil­lion for last season’s rights or just under $2 mil­lion for each of the 38 matches. 

Ante­na 3’s net income fell 14 per­cent last year while Medi­aset SpA (MS), the par­ent com­pa­ny of Medi­aset Espana, cut its div­i­dend in March after prof­it dropped more than esti­mat­ed on low­er adver­tise­ment sales, Busi­ness Week said. 

“The prob­lem with sports events is that it’s good for rat­ings but it’s a finan­cial dis­as­ter,” Ante­na 3 Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Sil­vio Gon­za­lez told the magazine. 

Al Jazeera’s oppor­tu­ni­ty is bol­stered by the fact that the eco­nom­ics of Span­ish league broad­cast rights are com­pli­cat­ed by Spain’s eco­nom­ic cri­sis, which has seen media rev­enues decline and unem­ploy­ment rise, as well as the fact that Span­ish law requires one match a week to be aired on a free-to-air rather than a pay tv chan­nel. Com­pli­cat­ing a pos­si­ble Al Jazeera push into the Spain is the fact that each Span­ish club sells its own rights which strength­ens the nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion teams like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. 

The poten­tial cri­sis in Span­ish soc­cer has fuelled calls for the drop­ping of the legal require­ment of a free-to-air game amid a flur­ry of Span­ish and British media reports about play­ers get­ting ready to trans­fer abroad after this sea­son ends. 

Britain’s The Sun report­ed that Abu Dhabi-owned Man­ches­ter City might offer $67 mil­lion for Colom­bian strik­er Radamel Fal­cao, who scored more than 25 goals for Spain’s Atleti­co Madrid this sea­son. Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Ger­main could also well try to exploit Spain’s dilemma. 

Al Jazeera has not com­ment­ed on whether it is con­sid­er­ing bid­ding for next season’s Span­ish league rights. A bid would how­ev­er be in line with the Gulf state’s glob­al soc­cer and media ambi­tions as well as Sheikh Hamad’s proven will­ing­ness to enable Al Jazeera to suf­fer mul­ti-year loss­es as it builds its business. 

The broad­cast­er, the most pop­u­lar sports net­work in the Mid­dle East and Africa with two free and 15 pay chan­nels, has acquired the rights in 23 coun­tries to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as well as to the trou­bled pre­mier league in Egypt, where the pay TV mar­ket is still underdeveloped. 

Al Jazeera is expect­ed to launch a new French chan­nel in ear­ly June in time for the Euro­pean soc­cer cham­pi­onships after acquir­ing French rights in the wake of Qatar’s acqui­si­tion of Paris Saint-Germain. 

Al Jazeera, which shares the rights with free-to-air chan­nels TF1 and M6, who as part of their pack­age will broad­cast those French match­es which have to be shown on free TV under French law, sees France as its test case for estab­lish­ing itself as a pay-TV broad­cast­er in Europe. 

The broad­cast­er is also look­ing at chal­leng­ing this spring Rupert Murdoch’s BskyB for British rights to the Eng­lish Pre­mier League, at approx­i­mate­ly $3 bil­lion the world’s most expen­sive soc­cer league broad­cast rights, and could also bid for Ger­man Bun­desli­ga rights. 

About The Author:
James M. Dorsey is a senior fel­low at the S. Rajarat­nam School of Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies at Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal Uni­ver­si­ty in Sin­ga­pore and the author of the blog, The Tur­bu­lent World of Mid­dle East Soc­cer.

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →