STC has signed a MoU with the government's General Sports Authority to pay 6.6 billion riyals ($1.8 billion) for exclusive rights to broadcast Saudi Arabian professional soccer matches over 10 years. If finalised, this deal would take the rights from privately controlled regional broadcaster MBC group, which in July 2014 signed a 10-year deal worth 4.1 billion riyals to obtain them.
The news comes just a few days after the release of Saudi businessman Waleed al-Ibrahim, who has management control of MBC. Reuters reports senior Saudi officials saying that Ibrahim agreed to an “undisclosed settlement after admitting to unspecified violations”.
In what was termed as a “crackdown on corruption” in the latter half of 2017, dozens of Saudi businessmen agreed to hand over more than $100 billion of assets to the state in financial settlements of allegations against them. According to Reuters reports, some analysts believe that Riyadh’s top sovereign wealth fund, the PIF (Public Investment Fund) and other state bodies will increasingly dominate parts of the economy after the corruption crackdown made some private businessmen more cautious about investing.
Turki Al-Asheikh, the head of General Sport Authority took to twitter to hail the Saudi telecom deal as the biggest sponsorship contract in the Middle East.
سعدت الليلةبحضور توقيع اتفاقية لأكبر عقد رعاية في الشرق الأوسط .. وبثلاثة أضعاف العقد السابق
شكرا لمجموعة الاتصالات السعودية
— تركي آل الشيخ (@Turki_alalshikh) February 5, 2018
The value of the transfer rights of the Saudi League in 2018 ($175 million) exceeds the value in 2014 ($40 million) by 340%, according to Saudi analyst, Saeed Alwahabi.
The initial agreement includes the exclusive broadcast rights for the local competitions, the Saudi Professional League, the King’s Cup, the Crown Prince’s Cup, professional league matches and all the Saudi national team matches, of which Saudi Arabian Football Federation retains the broadcasting and sponsorship rights. The marketing rights in the agreement include sponsoring the Saudi Professional League, SAFF, and the referees committee in the league and cup competitions, in addition to technical sponsorship of championships and sponsoring GSA events.
According to experts at Financial Times, Saudi officials and businessmen have showed interest to build a sports broadcasting operation that can compete with beIN Sports, which owns the MENA rights for most of the leading international leagues and tournaments.
STC CEO Dr. Khaled Biyari told Al Arabiya that his company expects good returns from the deal and would provide packages for customers to watch the Saudi football league on television, via digital media and through the company's fibre optic network.