World Cup screening rights deal struck
Caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi announced that an agreement had been reached to allow state-run Tele Liban to broadcast 2018 World Cup football games.
Riachi made the announcement after meeting with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to file a report on the progress made by the committee that was spearheading the negotiations.
He added that the games would be aired on the state-run TV channel for free.
“The Lebanese state will secure the [airing] through cables,” Riachi said.
The ministerial committee includes, besides Riachi, caretaker Telecommunications Minister Jamal Jarrah and Sports and caretaker Youth Minister Mohammad Fneish.
He noted that the move was important for two main reasons.
“First is because it is the right of all Lebanese and those present in the country to watch football,” Riachi said. “[And secondly,] the need to halt any [plan] for piracy and infringements on the rights of others. We will protect people’s rights and all the companies that offer services to the Lebanese and those in the country.”
Before the announcement, a source close to the committee told The Daily Star that a preliminary deal to acquire the rights to screen the FIFA World Cup had been reached between the ministerial committee and Sama group, the sole distributor of beIN Sports in Lebanon.
Tele Liban will be the only Lebanese channel to broadcast the World Cup games, once the competition kicks off on June 14.
The source said that the deal with Sama was estimated to be worth several million dollars. This cost will be paid by the country’s two mobile network operators Alfa and Touch, on behalf of the Lebanese government, the source added.
“We agreed with the company that there will be low prices for restaurants and any institution that provide coverage outside the household, [so that] the company secures its rights,” Riachi said.
Before his meeting with Hariri, Riachi told The Daily Star that he was “positive and keen to find the best way to air the World Cup to the Lebanese for free, so long as the German team does not lose.”
“Otherwise we will cut the broadcast,” Riachi said, tongue-in-cheek.
Since the 2014 World Cup, Sama has been the only channel with the rights to air the World Cup in Lebanon. Sama will charge viewers LL150,000 ($100) for the 2018 World Cup package, while Tele Liban wants to broadcast it for free.
Riachi hopes to receive proper permission from beIN this year, after a legal battle between the Qatari channel and Tele Liban was taken to court in 2014.
Talal Makdessi, Tele Liban director at the time, said that Qatari officials had promised to grant him the right to air the games. When the promise did not come to fruition, Makdessi decided to air the matches anyway.