Al-Jazeera to start sports channels:
DOHA, Qatar -- Al-Jazeera will launch two sports channels in the United States in August, a move that could cause league games in Spain and Italy to disappear from many cable systems.
The Qatar-based broadcaster said it has obtained rights to Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A and France's Ligue 1 as well as the Copa America and South American qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The launch could set the stage for an attempt to win the rights to the more popular Premier League when it comes on the market this year for the 2013-14 season.
The network will be called beIN Sports USA. Managing director Youssef Mohammad al-Obaidly said the channels will be "a new way of watching sports, a better way."
The network is in "the last stages of negotiation with different providers, having secured two major deals so far that will bring the channel to subscribers' homes on Aug. 1," he said.
However, given the short time before the start of next season to strike deals with Multiple System Operators, La Liga and Serie A may lose much of their U.S. distribution. That would lessen the American visibility of stars such Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Fox Soccer and its second channel, Fox Soccer Plus, had televised the Serie A since the 2007-08 season, when Fox took over rights following a splintered package that had GolTV owning the home games of most teams and Fox owning the rights to home games of Lazio, Lecce, Treviso and Cagliari. Fox's channels televised Ligue 1 the past two seasons, obtaining the French telecasts without a rights fee.
GolTV has had La Liga rights since the 2004-5 season, when it took over from Fox. It sublicensed some games to ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.com.
The loss leaves the German Bundesliga as GolTV's only major European league under a deal runs through the 2014-15 season. GolTV also has rights to league games in Brazil and Argentina.
Fox retains rights to the two most-watched European soccer properties. It will televise the UEFA Champions League through 2014-15 after taking over in August 2009 from ESPN, which had held U.S. rights since 1994-95.
Fox has televised the Premier League since 1998, sublicensing some rights to ESPN since August 2009. Fox's Premier League deal runs through the 2012-13 season, and Al-Jazeera could bid for the next three-year package.
In addition, Fox takes over the second-tier Europa League next season from GolTV under a three-year deal through 2014-15.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press