No Barca, no Roma, no PSG; Officially, beIN Sport mum on Canadian plans By Steven Sandor Posted on August 15, 2013 28 0 329 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Canadian soccer viewers don’t have a lot of legal viewing options when it comes to catching games from Ligue 1, La Liga or Serie A. This weekend, our American friends will have access to Barcelona and Real Madrid’s season openers through beIN Sport, the network which has gobbled up the North American rights to La Liga. It also has the broadcast rights for Italian league and French league action. This Saturday’s slate of games is mouth-watering; Ligue 1 action between Montpellier and AS Monaco; then onto to Barca and Real Madrid season openers. The network, which is tied to the Al Jazeera empire, is also broadcasting English Championship matches this season. But, for the second straight European season, Canadian fans will be left searching for illegal feeds, as beIN Sport isn’t available in Canada. Since the network launched in 2012, the off-the-record indications have been that it wants to make itself available in Canada. So far, though, there haven’t been concrete actions. The result is a squeeze; beIN Sport continues to eat up Canadian broadcast rights for big European soccer properties, with no avenue to broadcast them in Canada. Officially, the network has nothing to say on the record. That was the stance this week when it was approached by The 11. But, this is what we know. There is no current application in front of the CRTC for a broadcast licence in Canada, which beIN would need to make its signal available here. And, before we get into the timeline to get a licence in Canada, we should address this question — HOW would beIN Sport even be allowed to operate in Canada? From the CRTC: “All non-Canadian services must be authorized before they can be distributed in Canada. For a service to be authorized, a Canadian sponsor (for example, a distributor, programming service or industry organization) makes a formal request to the CRTC. The CRTC won’t authorize non-Canadian English- and French-language services if they compete with Canadian pay and specialty services. This helps to ensure that Canadian services have priority.” Please re-read the bit in italics. This is why ESPN can’t broadcast in Canada — because it would compete with TSN and Sportsnet. So, as a foreign broadcaster, beIN Sport can’t come in and compete with the likes of GolTV Canada and Sportsnet World. The only course for beIN would be to launch a Canadian affiliate — a beIN Canada, with studios and offices in Canada, which would employ Canadian talent. Now, beIN has affiliates based in the U.S., Hong Kong, Thailand and France, so a Canadian affiliate would not be a ludicrous suggestion. Just like Fox Sports World Canada used to be. Or Food Network Canada. Or Discovery Canada. These Canadian subsidiary launches are often done as partnerships; Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was behind the launch of GolTV Canada; CTV, Shaw and Global partner in many of the U.S.-Canadian subsidiary channels. But, if beIN Canada was to apply for a licence, it needs to show it will dedicate a portion of its programming to Canadian content. And this is where it’s problematic. The three Canadian MLS teams’ rights are tied up. FC Edmonton’s broadcasts are licensed to Sportsnet. Soccer content doesn’t come easy in Canada; and beIN would need to find a way to break into the Canadian market in order to satisfy Can-con regulations. Then, there’s the licence application. If beIN launches a bid towards the CRTC, a waiting period is given for public comment and to see if there is opposition. This is a time when supporters of a station can tell the feds why they want the service. But, it’s also a time when other parties, including other broadcasters, can say why they oppose the deal. Rogers, Shaw and Bell Media would have the chances to launch appeals against beIN, if they so wished. How long does this process take? The sale of The Score to Rogers, which saw the channel rebranded as Sportsnet 360 (disclaimer: The FC Edmonton broadcasts on which I appear are aired on Sportsnet 360) gives us an idea. On Aug. 24, 2012, the CRTC approved a trust agreement for the sale of The Score to Rogers. Basically, the shares of the channel were held in trust, as the CRTC waited to approve the deal. The deadline for interventions was set for Feb. 20, 2013. That’s six months. The deal was finally OK’ed on April 30, 2013. But, if there was fierce opposition to the deal, it would have taken longer to be resolved. Without even a hint of a licence application going forward, there’s no chance we’d see beIN Sport signals in Canada during this European season, unless they’d re-sell the rights to an existing Canadian broadcaster. But, even if beIN Sport wanted to sell those signals, would a Canadian broadcaster bite? Remember what they are buying has no Canadian content whatsoever. And there’s only so much non-Canadian material each broadcaster can take on. Think of broadcasting in Canada as a series of causes and effects, of good intentions and unintended consequences. We have a very strictly regulated system in Canada — one that’s designed to protect Canadian culture and jobs. The sad thing for Canadian soccer fans is that beIN looks to be swallowing more properties as it grows in other parts of the world. And that reduces the viewing options for the Canadian viewer that’s squeezed out of the legal broadcasting picture.