Abu Dhabi Sports Channel to redefine football viewing

Abu Dhabi Sports has also bought rights of mobile and other digital services of the Premier League. (GETTY IMAGES)

The monthly value of a subscription card for watching Premier League matches on pay Abu Dhabi Sports Channels will be equal to the price of a Kentucky Fried Chicken meal and very famous western soccer experts will be contracted to present, analyse and comment on the games on Abu Dhabi Sports, a top official from the channel has said.

"The names of Western football experts will create a pleasing surprise for our audience once they are officially contracted with and announced," Mohammed Najib, Head of Abu Dhabi Sports Channel, told Emirates Business.

Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) announced on July 3 that it had secured the exclusive Middle East rights of Premier League football to be broadcast on its sports channels for three seasons starting from August 2010.

Najib declined to disclose the value of the deal, but he said: "Whatever the sum paid for purchasing the Premier League rights was, it is worth that. I can tell you that Sky Sports, the dominant subscription television sports brand in the United Kingdom and Ireland, purchased the rights of the Premier League football for $1.7 billion (Dh6.2bn) and this happened during the middle of the global financial crisis. This means that anything can be impacted by the crisis with the exception of the Premier League."

On the price of the subscription card, as the Premier League contract prohibits free-to-air (FTA) broadcasting, he said: "The price of the card will be within the reach of the public. The aim of the management of ADMC is that Abu Dhabi Sports Channels arrive at the biggest possible number of viewers and interest of low-income group will be taken into consideration. The value of monthly subscription fee will be equal to the value of a KFC meal."

Abu Dhabi Sports also obtained the rights of mobile and other digital services. Revealing some of the ideas for marketing Premier League subscription cards, Najib said: "There are many different scenarios. We might offer a subscription card enabling its owner to watch only the Premier League on the encrypted Abu Dhabi Sports channels and we might include our subscription channels with other pay channels that can be seen through one card. The audience of the two free-to-air Abu Dhabi Sports Channels will also have a share of the Premier League, as highlights from the games will be broadcast on the two FTA channels.

Abu Dhabi is involved in the Premier League football in various ways, since the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment purchased Manchester City last year and Etihad Airways sponsored Chelsea and Manchester City clubs.

"Manchester City will be our favourite club in Abu Dhabi Sports Channels, because it is a story of success that every Emirati should be involved in. We will establish London-based analysis studios and have live coverage from stadiums that will host games. There are very famous Western names on my mind that we will be contacting to present and analyse the games on Abu Dhabi Sports Channels. These names will cause pleasing surprises for our audience. In addition, we will open several subscription channels to broadcast all games live.

"Showtime Arabia, which is the current owner of Premier League football Middle East rights, had a great coverage over the past two years and it used to broadcast all games at one time. The quality of the coverage was great and foreign analysts and commentators who attended the English-speaking studios were excellent and this places us ahead of a huge challenge, especially since the Premier League is considered the world's strongest football competition.

On other broadcasting rights that Abu Dhabi Sports plans to purchase in near future, he said: "The tender of Serie A, the Italian football league, will be announced soon and we will strongly bid for the Calcio.

"In addition, we will be strongly involved in any other tender. We have very big projects in mind.

"Abu Dhabi Sports has come back to restore its glory. We have learnt from our mistakes in the past and ADMC has started to look at revenues after it transformed from a government company into a quasi-government firm and I think this is a correct approach," Najib said.


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