The announcement triggered a debate on LinkedIn with some industry professionals questioning if the free-to-air arrangement would put regional IPTV networks at a disadvantage, and if subscribers or the platforms were eligible for a refund in light of the announcement.
On the eve of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, beIN Media Group, which has the exclusive MENA broadcast rights for the games, surprised football fans when it announced that 22 matches will be broadcast on beINs free-to-air channels in the region although it is not known which matches will be shown free. The free matches will be shown on the sports networks free-to-air channels, beIN Sports News HD and beIN Sports HD.
Although it is unknown how this will impact local IPTV platforms like Etisalat and du that bought the rights to rebroadcast the matches, beINs goodwill gesture is likely to have come in response to Egypts complaints to FIFA that selling the rights exclusively to beIN breached its competition laws.
Speaking about the announcement, Nasser Al Khelaifi, Chairman and CEO of beIN MEDIA GROUP said: 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.
The announcement triggered a debate on LinkedIn with some industry professionals questioning if the free-to-air arrangement would put regional IPTV networks at a disadvantage. They also questioned if subscribers would be able to claim refunds for paying a premium for the World Cup package in light of the FTA announcement.
Others argued that a limited FTA release was common in most regions and was justified given that the beIN packages were prohibitive especially for Egyptian fans. They also stated that the impact on the IPTV platforms would be minimal given the late announcement.
The announcement, however, has set a precedent in the region and is likely to be something IPTV providers will consider for future negotiations with rights holders.