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Karim Sarkis, the executive director of broadcast at ADMC, which is looking to broaden access to the EPL.
STEPHEN LOCK
Karim Sarkis, the executive director of broadcast at ADMC, which is looking to broaden access to the EPL.

ADMC takes the digital approach

Q&A with Karim Sarkis, the executive director of broadcast at Abu Dhabi Media Company.

Why is Abu Dhabi Media Company going this route with the EPL league rights? It's about choice and innovation. We wanted as many people as possible to have access to these rights, and we wanted to do it in a digital way, which we think is where the industry is going. Isn't ADMC also doing this in part to push for deeper broadband penetration in the region, which in turn would give it more opportunities to sell its brands in the digital realm?

If you look at ADMC's overall digital approach to things, obviously digital is an important part of our plans, as we transition our brands into the digital realm. So yes, making people more aware and driving the uptake of broadband is an important part of ADMC's strategy. Broadband pipes alone are not valuable. What makes them valuable is the content that comes through them. But is the region's broadband infrastructure really ready for this level of prime time?

I'm sure there is going to be some scepticism about the status of broadband penetration, but ADMC is not saying that the EPL is available on broadband only. We are saying that this is going to be one of the platforms that we are using, and we recognise in the 22 countries in this region there will be many countries that don't have the broadband infrastructure to make it available. That's why we are doing the satellite television offering, too. But as we go forward, we think the market will shift toward broadband.

Have you received any word from the telecommunications companies that they are committed to rolling out the broadband infrastructure required for streaming premium content such as the EPL? We don't need to. The telcos in the UAE and Saudi have already started to roll out a new a new infrastructure to increase the availability of broadband. The UAE is at the forefront of this, with Etisalat's fibre-to-the-home project. They are already very committed to building broadband infrastructure. The advantage of working with telco partners is that they already have access to their subscribers so they are able to bundle content and give better value to their subscribers, as opposed to a pay-TV model that is a separate platform. We will be helping them to attract more subscribers with our content, and they will be helping drive the uptake of digital content in the region, which helps us.

How are you going to share the profits? It's too soon to answer that question. We are already in talks with several telcos. How are you going to roll out a high-definition set-top box in time for the start of the matches in August? It is certainly going to be a challenge, but we have already started. This is something that we have been working on for a while. There are ways to get boxes into markets with existing retailers without having to start everything from scratch.

How soon can football fans expect to get more information about how to access the next EPL season? We have a contractual obligation with the existing rights-holder to not make any consumer-focused marketing efforts before June 1.

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