Abu Dhabi // Armchair football fans will be able to watch all 380 Premier League matches in England next season for a one-year subscription of Dh370. The games will be available on satellite TV, IPTV and online. Every game will be also be available in High Definition provided the viewer has an HD decoder box which costs up to Dh999 including a smart card for a year's subscription.
IPTV users can subscribe through their local internet protocol TV - cable - provider, for a recommended Dh75 per month. While the basic package may include AD Sports, it will usually be offered for an additional fee, sometimes as part of a bundle of channels. And those who want to watch online will pay Dh370 for the season in the GCC, or Dh220 elsewhere.Viewers will be able to subscribe from mid July for the season which begins in August.
Abu Dhabi Media Company, which owns The National, made the announcement yesterday as it rolled out the blueprint for its inaugural season of broadcasting the league, the rights to which were previously held by Showtime. ADMC's will show every match across six channels in Arabic and English. Commentators will broadcast in English and Arabic from the UK, backed up by pitchside reporters, with live translation of interviews into Arabic.
There will be four 24-hour dedicated channels, two of which will be broadcast in Arabic and two in English, in addition to two channels that will be activated for live matches. Extra channels will be provided on busy match days. Post-match analysis will come from experts and guests - including players, former players and managers - in the Abu Dhabi studio. Mohammad Najib, head of Abu Dhabi TV Sports Channels, said: "In the past, Arabic speakers were not as engaged with the analysis or debate about the matches."
He said the Arabic analysis would "involve our viewers all over the Middle East". Karim Sarkis, ADMC's head of broadcast, said the names of studio guests have not been confirmed but "they will be of the highest calibre". He added: "We will of course use translators and that will be handled in way to minimise any inconvenience to our Arabic-speaking audience." Issam Khoury, a 37-year-old Palestinian who lives in Abu Dhabi, said that although he still needed more details about the exact packages, he would be subscribing through his provider, Etisalat's E-Vision service.
However, he was yet to be convinced online streaming would work well enough to watch football. He said he would wait for any teething problems to be solved before getting an online subscription. "I'm not sure if the connections will good enough for the transmission to be clear and seamless," he said. "Maybe for the following season." However, Ricky Ghai, ADMC's head of digital media, said the online streaming, which will also allow fans to chat and comment, would be of a very high quality.
"The technology we're using will make sure that there will be no interruptions," he said. "It's a challenge but the testing has been very successful. We're using technology that is not very new, it has already been consistently used in Europe and North America." He said he thought the ability to stream live football would drive fans to upgrade their internet connections. "There is a role here for the telecom providers like du and Etisalat to use the attractiveness of the Premier League to entice customers to get a subscription or upgrade to broadband," he said.
"A customer will now understand why they need the big broadband connection, especially once you get used to near-HD quality streaming."