Al Jazeera Sports has held talks to buy pay-TV sports provider Setanta Australia and could look to launch its international brand BeIn early next year, a move which would pose a serious challenge to the dominance of Fox Sports, Mumbrella understands.
Senior industry sources say there have been “talks” between the Qatari-based media group and Setanta, which currently airs as an paid-for subscription channel on Foxtel, about an acquisition.
It is thought Al Jazeera could look to form a joint venture with sports rights sellers MP & Silva under the BeIn brand, which has made a major push into France, North America and several countries in Asia in the last two years.
The move would signal a significant increase in competition for News Corp-owned Fox Sports, which currently dominates the subscription sports market, as BeIn has flexed some serious financial muscle across Asia to acquire sports right including the English Premier League (EPL) in Indonesia.
The EPL is currently one of the jewels in the crown for Fox Sports, which is limited in the amount of domestic rights it is able to pick up by strict anti-siphoning laws, meaning many top-tier domestic and international sports must be available on free-to-air TV.
BeIn has also recently launched in other Asian markets including Hong Kong and the Philippines and has three channels in France, as well as a presence in Canada.
Speculation on the entry of Al Jazeera into the market started in October when The Australian reported Fox Sports was forced to stop broadcasting the Italian Serie A football league after MP & Silva, which sells the rights globally, found it had sold them twice for Australia. The other holder is Al Jazeera.
The channel would also hold rights to several other European football leagues which would provide it with a wide-ranging audience of niche demographics in Australia.
Setanta currently holds the rights to assets including the English Football League, Scottish Premier League as well as a range of football World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, English Rugby Premiership matches and Gaelic sports. It is thought these rights would be transferred to BeIn under the terms of the deal.
Neither Al Jazeera nor Setanta were available for comment at the time of publishing.