The English Premier League is to begin its move away from TV and on to the web in the Middle East and North Africa thanks to Abu Dhabi Media Company’s decision to broadcast the 2010/2011 season online.
The announcement was made by Abu Dhabi Media Company CEO Edward Borgerding at the MENA Cristal awards in Mzaar, Lebanon yesterday, and follows ADMC’s winning of the rights to the EPL last year.
The move helps bring to an end speculation as to how ADMC was going to be able to air all of the EPL’s games, and how it was to charge for them. The Orbit Showtime Network has the rights to the EPL until May and has been showing the games purely on satellite pay-TV.
From August, all EPL games will be availabe online for a fee, although Karim Sarkis, executive director, broadcast group at ADMC, said matches will also be available via satellite and cable to those without access to broadband.
“What was different about the contract with the Premier League this time around was that platforms no longer matter,” said Sarkis. “Whereas before they sold the rights by platform, now platforms don’t matter, because they understand that the whole world is changing in terms of how TV is getting to people. You can reach a higher number of people this way than you can do trying it the Showtime, or the Orbit or the Al Jazeera way.
“What we’re going to do is hit two birds with one stone. On the one hand we’re going to be doing something very new, very innovative, but on the other hand we’re going to make it available to a much higher number of people.
“There is still an issue to deal with, which is broadband penetration isn’t at the same level across all our territories, so you can’t avoid the traditional means of distribution.But even then we’re doing something innovative, which is HD distribution. So, alongside IPTV, cable and broadband distribution we will also have a satellite based solution but it will be in HD only. We think we need that in the beginning. The way we see it is, over time, the mass of our viewers are going to shift from the box model, but definitely in our key markets we think the scales will tip in favour of the people who will access it through the non-conventional means.”
ADMC has the rights to the EPL for the next three seasons.