As this magazine went to press towards the end of May, and less than three weeks ahead of the world’s biggest sports event, it was unclear how most of the region’s consumers could watch the football World Cup at home and how much it would really cost them.
What we do know for sure is that E-Vision is offering the World Cup to its cable subscribers for a one-off charge of US $100. Great, we thought upon hearing the news, until it was pointed that you’d also have to take out a one year subscription for Al Jazeera Sports through E-Vision. A search of the E-Vision web site yielded no information on how to subscribe to the World Cup, nor how much it will really cost. E-Vision is, of course, only available in the UAE.
Beyond this, most people are clueless about how to get the World Cup. There have been reports in local newspapers about special cards, costing US $130, that will allow you to watch the World Cup. But there is no information on what kind of box you need to plug these cards into. Will they work in any bog standard set top box that you buy from the supermarket, or will special units loaded with all sorts of encryption be required? One colleague thinks the latter.
As this magazine went to press, it also appeared that there are no agreements in place to show the World Cup on OSN and ART, the only pan-Arab pay TV operations in existence. This means that the bulk of the region’s pay TV subscribers will not be able to watch the World Cup at home. It was also unclear whether or not Du subscribers would be able to get the World Cup.
By the time you read this column, these issues may have been cleared up. Perhaps Al Jazeera Sports, the regional rights holder, will have finalised agreements to let OSN and ART customers subscribe to the World Cup. Perhaps we’ll know how much it will really cost us to get the World Cup through E-Vision. But for ordinary consumers to be confused just three weeks ahead of the greatest show on earth is very disappointing.
Unfortunately, World Cup confusion has happened before. In 2002 and 2006, ART struggled to process World Cup subscriptions and many viewers were left without coverage as the pay TV operator worked through the backlog of last minute subscriptions. While the region increasingly produces great content, perhaps we still have plenty to learn about customer service.