For a quiet month like Ramadan, a lot has been going on in the TV industry – and I believe a lot of the ruckus has to do with the World Cup. The fate of Germany and Argentina hang in the balance as I write this. But the drama on the field is vying with the uncertainty playing out on our screens primarily because of issues centring around beIN Sports having the exclusive MENA broadcast rights to the 2018 World Cup.
Egypt’s defiance of these rights and the desire to run 22 free matches brought a very pertinent question to the fore. Should the rights for a tournament like the World Cup be vested with one sole player in the region? Should there be a greater collaborative effort between governments to share the broadcast rights as well as the investment that goes into them?
The larger concern is the rampant piracy the games have unleashed across the region and even globally, driven by eager fans willing to watch the soccer spectacle at any cost. With little appetite to clamp down on illegal set-top boxes, channel owners will continue to question the economics of vying for broadcasting rights for sporting events.
Amidst the World Cup frenzy, we have a story that should inspire confidence and belief in the long-term health of the MENA broadcast industry. The Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) has announced unfettered access to a features-rich cloud for all member broadcasters in the region. On the sidelines of the annual ASBU TV and Radio Festival in Tunis, I had the opportunity to speak with ASBU Director General Abdelrahim Suleiman at length about this bold new initiative.
We have more industry initiatives within this issue that will tell you that, World Cup fracas aside, the region’s broadcasters are making some seriously good moves.