After what feels like the most protracted media silence in history, the English Premier League rights in the region for 2013-2016 have finally been sold, and in an unexpected twist they haven't gone to either of the favourites Abu Dhabi Media or Al Jazeera, who were reported to be preparing a monster bid to see off incumbent holders ADM.
In fact, previously unheard of television sports rights business MP & Silva has trumped both to win a three-year contract to distribute English Premier League soccer in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Premier League announced the agreement with the international media agency on Thursday, the latest in a series of rights deals expected to bring the League a total windfall of more than 5 billion pounds ($7.9 billion) in 2013 though 2016.
ADM previously held the rights and had been expected to fight hard to retain them, since Premier League Champions Manchester City are owned by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera has also been building up its sports broadcasting business, launching channels in France and the United States, and had been expecting to bid strongly for the Premier League rights in its home region.
MP & Silva CEO Andrea Radrizzani said the big two broadcasters did not bid as aggressively as he had feared.
"Our price was quite near what ADM paid in the past," Radrizzani told Reuters. "Even though the price was quite high, we thought it was killer content for the region."
The rights cover all 380 Premier League matches per season and extend across 23 countries from Iran to Morocco, taking in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Having bought the rights, MP & Silva will seek to do its own deals with broadcasters in the region to show live action.
Viewers in some countries may not need to adjust their television sets to receive new channels because MP & Silva plans to negotiate with ADM and Al Jazeera.
The Premier League is the richest in the world in terms of TV revenue and outperforms Spanish and German rivals when it comes to selling overseas.
"There is a lot of appetite for football and the Premier League is the best league in the world," said Radrizzani.
"The format is very good for the region in terms of time slots at the weekend," he added.
Radrizzani continued: “We are extremely excited to extend the distribution of BPL to the MENA region. With this new addition, MP & Silva is now partnering with the Premier League in 40 countries across Asia, Pacific and MENA. It is a very distinctive and strategic partnership for us. We are glad that the Premier League recognises our leadership in the market and we are looking forward to using our network of broadcasters to improve audiences of top-class English football in MENA.”
Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, added:
“We know MP & Silva well as they have acquired other Premier League rights for the 2013-2016 period, and in previous seasons. We are pleased to be working with them again and are confident that they will distribute all the best Barclays Premier League action in a comprehensive and innovative manner to fans in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Abu Dhabi Media were unavailable for comment at the time of writing, however we hope to update with their thoughts soon.