Al Jazeera, the Qatar-financed media network which in January bought Al Gore’s Current TV, now is interested in acquiring the Tennis Channel.
A source close to the New York Post said, “the Tennis Channel is in play and the Qataris are looking hard.”
If such a deal is successful, Al Jazeera’s plan to ramp-up its stake and presence in live U.S. sports programming, offered by its “beIn Sport” network, would get a boost.
Described as “North America’s Premier Sports network,” beIn Sports USA was launched last August. The Al Jazeera affiliate offers two channels and twenty-four hour coverage with, at this point, a focus primarily on international soccer. At the time, a network executive said beIn Sports USA would be ”a new way of watching sports, a better way.”
For its part, the Tennis Channel boasts an attractive portfolio. According to its website, it has the “telecast rights to the US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros (French Open), Australian Open, Olympus US Open Series, ATP Masters Series, top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions, Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, and Hyundai Hopman Cup.” The Post reports that “Last year, the channel reaped about $100 million in revenue.”
Given Al Jazeera’s stated U.S. strategy and direction, its reported interest in the Tennis Channel should come as no surprise. In a May 2012 Reuters article, Al Jazeera’s Sports Director Nasser al-Khelaifi said, “It’s not about competing with ESPN or Fox, it’s more of a niche channel featuring international sports.” The article continued: “The aim…is to focus on international sports instead of taking on local giants including ESPN and Fox TV in marquee American sports like baseball, said al-Khelaifi.”