Un­cer­tainty grips broad­cast­ing deal as World Cup kicks off

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Hasan Lakkis

BEIRUT: Un­cer­tainty sur­rounded the deal made be­tween BeIN Me­dia Group and state-run broad­cast er Te le Liban to air the World Cup for free in Le­banon as the highly an­tic­i­pated sport­ing event be­gan Thurs­day.

Just an hour be­fore Tele Liban was set to air the open­ing match, BeiN, the owner of the rights to broad­cast the game in the re­gion, said it had only granted Tele Liban the sub­li­cense to broad­cast 22 of the 64 World Cup matches free of charge on ca­ble tele­vi­sion in Le­banon.

But the deal struck with Sama Group, BeIN’s ex­clu­sive agent in Le­banon, clearly stated Tele Liban could broad­cast all the games with­out ex­cep­tion, sources with knowl­edge of the is­sue told The Daily Star.

Ac­cord­ing to the sources, the group’s state­ment pub­lished on the state-run Na­tional News Agency say­ing just 22 matches would be aired sparked a flurry of official con­sul­ta­tions at the high­est lev­els, es­pe­cially as it was un­der­stood that the con­tract signed be­tween Sama and Le­banon’s two mo­bile net­work op­er­a­tors, Alfa and touch, was not open for in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Alfa and touch will cover the cost of the deal on be­half of the govern­ment.

The ap­par­ent change raised ques­tions, par­tially due to am­bi­gu­i­ties in the ne­go­ti­a­tion process, the sources said. The ini­tially pre­sented cost of air­ing the matches did not ex­ceed $3 mil­lion, but was later raised to $5 mil­lion, and was brought yes­ter­day to $8 mil­lion. In 2014, an ul­ti­mately failed deal to air the games only cost $5 mil­lion, the sources said.

Sources added that dis­cus­sions Thurs­day re­sulted in a verbal prom­ise from BeIN rep­re­sen­ta­tives to give Le­banon the right to broad­cast the en­tirety of the World Cup.

Mean­while, many who tried to watch Thurs­day’s open­ing match com­plained of poor sig­nal and im­age qual­ity, while oth­ers were un­able to watch it en­tirely be­cause they used a dish up­link rather than a ca­ble, which they didn’t know they needed.

Sources said that there was now talk of an ad­di­tional in­crease in the con­tract’s price to $10 mil­lion in or­der for all the matches to be aired.

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