BEIRUT: Uncertainty surrounded the deal made between BeIN Media Group and state-run broadcaster Tele Liban to air the World Cup for free in Lebanon as the highly anticipated sporting event began Thursday. Just an hour before Tele Liban was set to air the opening match, BeiN, the owner of the rights to broadcast the game in the region, said it had only granted Tele Liban the sublicense to broadcast 22 of the 64 World Cup matches free of charge on cable television in Lebanon.
But the deal struck with Sama Group, BeIN’s exclusive agent in Lebanon, clearly stated Tele Liban could broadcast all the games without exception, sources with knowledge of the issue told The Daily Star.
According to the sources, the group’s statement published on the state-run National News Agency saying just 22 matches would be aired sparked a flurry of official consultations at the highest levels, especially as it was understood that the contract signed between Sama and Lebanon’s two mobile network operators, Alfa and touch, was not open for interpretation. Alfa and touch will cover the cost of the deal on behalf of the government.
The apparent change raised questions, partially due to ambiguities in the negotiation process, the sources said. The initially presented cost of airing the matches did not exceed $3 million, but was later raised to $5 million, and was brought yesterday to $8 million. In 2014, an ultimately failed deal to air the games only cost $5 million, the sources said.
Sources added that discussions Thursday resulted in a verbal promise from BeIN representatives to give Lebanon the right to broadcast the entirety of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, many who tried to watch Thursday’s opening match complained of poor signal and image quality, while others were unable to watch it entirely because they used a dish uplink rather than a cable, which they didn’t know they needed.
Sources said that there was now talk of an additional increase in the contract’s price to $10 million in order for all the matches to be aired.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 15, 2018, on page 2.