The next three FIFA World Cup tournaments will be televised by Al Jazeera Sports across the Middle East and North Africa after football’s world governing body struck a new deal with the satellite broadcaster to air the competitions in 2018 and 2022.
The move represents the first transmission rights package be settled by FIFA for the two events – to be hosted in Russia and Qatar respectively. Al Jazeera will also transmit live matches from the next World Cup finals, to be held in 2014 in Brazil, through an existing agreement.
Certain matches from these prestigious football competitions will be made available free-to-air, in line with FIFA policy – although a fee is expected to be levied by the Qatar-based broadcaster for complete live coverage of all the matches.
“FIFA’s aim is to make the World Cup as accessible to as many people around the world as possible – and for this we thankfully have an immensely strong partner in Al Jazeera Sport for the Middle East and North Africa,” said Jerome Volcker, FIFA secretary general.
Nasser Al Khelaifi, general manager, Al Jazeera Sport said the latest agreement with FIFA covers cable, satellite, mobile TV and broadband internet transmission across 23 countries in the region. Furthermore, that the channel will “continue its policy to maintain qualitative coverage of the FIFA World Cup and to invest in production to bring the very best programming of the world’s most watched event in the region.”
The final of last summer’s World Cup between Spain and Holland was watched by 162 million viewers across the Middle East and North Africa – representing the single largest TV audience ever recorded in the region, according to the broadcaster.
Financial details have not been disclosed for the latest deal, which also bestows exclusive rights on Al Jazeera Sport to broadcast the FIFA Confederation Cup, FIFA Under-20 World Cup, FIFA Women’s World Cup and FIFA Beach Soccer in the region.
Al Jazeera’s World Cup coverage hit the headlines in June 2010 when its satellite transmissions of key opening matches from South Africa were jammed, and millions of disappointed viewers were left without a signal. The broadcaster subsequently traced the source of the interference to Jordan, although this was denied by authorities in the Kingdom.