Football fans will be able to watch English Premier League (EPL) games on internet TV next season under a deal announced yesterday. The three-year deal between the internet providers Etisalat and du and Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), which owns the screening rights for EPL, is the first of several deals ADMC plans to make with telecommunications companies for its premium sports content.
ADMC, which also owns The National, plans to broadcast the EPL through a combination of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), encrypted satellite TV and broadband. "I would say this is a commitment to build the trenches together," said Ricky Ghai, the executive director of digital media at ADMC, adding that every EPL match would be made available on all platforms. "Du or Etisalat will be given the right number of channels to cover complete coverage of all games in English or Arabic," he said.
The deal represents a major step towards the larger role telecoms seek to play in the Middle East. Media experts in more developed markets expect IPTV, which is delivered over broadband internet infrastructure, to overtake cable distribution of premium TV content. The UAE is the region's most developed IPTV market and as such, a ready laboratory for this new mode of distribution. But Mr Ghai said other markets were catching up.
He said the company hoped its EPL strategy would increase broadband penetration and use in the MENA region. "This is a strategic move for us and we are delighted to partner with ADMC, which is regarded as a leading provider of premium sports entertainment content in the region," said Farid Faraidooni, the chief commercial officer of du. More information on availability, packages and pricing will be released in coming months.