x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Where's the big game?

Never come between a sports fan and his need to see the big game on television.

Never come between a sports fan and his need to see the big game on television.

Occasionally this happens through unforeseen circumstances. Transmission of World Cup 2010 matches from South Africa was interrupted, for example, due to satellite jamming; it is fair to say that viewers were less than understanding towards the service providers. Other times it happens because of contract negotiations: over the last week, three ESPN channels, which broadcast the majority of American sports to viewers in the Middle East, have been unavailable through Etisalat's eVision service.

With the NFL season now in its playoff stage, this could not have come at a worse time. It is not, however, a first for American football fans. "Technical" problems had similarly affected transmission at the beginning of 2011, a few months after Al Jazeera bought the rights to screen the ESPN channels. Fortunately for fans, the issues last year were resolved in time for the majority of games, including the Super Bowl.

Fans will be hoping that current discussions between the providers Etisalat and the rights holders Al Jazeera, are a mere formality.

US football may not enjoy the popularity in this part of the world of what Americans call soccer. Still, the thousands of Americans and others who follow the NFL will be of one voice: "I want my ESPN".