The past few days have seen a slew of rumours in the Arab world that – somehow or other – football-mad Arab fans would be able to see the upcoming FIFA World Cup out of Brazil free of charge.
Arab fans had their expectations raised because of potential unencrypted transmissions from Eutelsat’s ‘Hot Bird’ satellites, which are widely viewed in the MENA region. The suggestion was that German public broadcaster ZDF would be broadcasting matches unencrypted.
FIFA put out an emergency statement on April 24 stressing that ZDF would not be screening matches unencrypted from any Eutelsat craft. “ZDF, FIFA’s broadcast partner in Germany, ZDF will not be broadcasting matches unencrypted on the Eutelsat Hot Bird satellite platform during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. ZDF/ARD are media rights licensees for the 2014 FIFA World Cup for the German territory only. As such, their broadcasts will be available in the German language and restricted to Germany. beIN Sports is the exclusive Media Rights Licensee for the Middle East and Northern Africa,” said the FIFA statement.
The rights to air games in the MENA region are held by beIN Sports, formerly Al Jazeera Sports, which charges new subscribers about $250 for an annual package of channels that includes games from the upcoming tournament in Brazil. (The network is offering a 20 per cent discount until April 30.)
Which is not to say that MENA viewers will necessarily have to pay to view the football games. Free-to-air signals will inevitably be on some satellites, although FIFA can be expected to clamp down on any signal theft retransmissions. The ‘African’ French-regional rights to the tournament are held by Canal Plus Afrique on a dedicated Canal+Foot channel, while ‘free-to-air’ terrestrial rights are held by the African Union of Broadcasters which has sold sub-Saharan rights in 41 English, French and Portuguese countries.