The beIN MEDIA GROUP (beIN) has announced that 22 matches of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 will be broadcast on beIN's free-to-air channels in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The announcement, made on the morning of the start of the World Cup in Russia, comes in the wake of Egypt’s claim of FTA rights to the 22 matches and it's complaints to FIFA that selling the rights exclusively to beIN breached its competition laws. beIn has also reached free-to-air agreements with Morrocan state broadcaster Société Nationale de Radiodiffusion et de Télévision (SNRT).
The broadcasters said this landmark deal represents a gesture of goodwill by the global broadcaster to offer its content to the widest possible audience across the Arabic speaking world. beIN is the exclusive broadcast rights holder of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 in MENA, however, the subscription charges are prohibitive for many consumers in the region, particularly in countries with lower spending power such as Egypt.
The impact of beIN's last-minute FTA announcement on subscribers and operators who have purchased packages and re-broadcast rights is expected to be limited, considering the last minute nature of the announcement. UAE operators Etisalat and du had last week, reached deals with beIN to buy the rights to re-broadcast the matches on their respective IPTV platforms.
beIN's free-to-air programming will include the opening ceremony and match, all group games involving Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as selected quarter and semi-final matches, and the World Cup final taking place on Sunday 15 July.
Through the free-to-air plans announced on Thursday, though, beIN said it has ensured that sports fans in MENA will have access to 22 matches of the tournament on beIN's free-to-air channels.
Commenting on the agreement, Nasser al Khelaifi, Chairman and CEO of beIN MEDIA GROUP said,"It is our honour and pleasure to offer free-to-air access to 22 FIFA World Cup matches, offering the most memorable moments of the World Cup to millions of football fans across the Middle East and North Africa.
"Our region has some of the most passionate, dedicated and knowledgeable football fans in the world, and we are delighted to be able to open up access to the tournament to the multitude of fans who will tune in across region over the coming weeks. This is the first time we have made our content so widely available as we realise how significant and unifying this tournament is for our region.