UPDATE: beIN SPORT did not purchase the rights to the match. They bought all the CONCACAF WCQ games not in the US or Mexico. Apologies.
ORIGINAL: beIN SPORT (so tired of typing that) landed the biggest fish of them all.
The fledging sports network from Al Jazeera now owns the United States English-language television rights to all away American World Cup qualifying matches.
We knew about most of the games after Wednesday’s surprising announcement — Steve posted an excellent primer detailing the issues — but the US-Mexico rights were not confirmed until Thursday. (This assumes the US will play Mexico, but that’s almost certainly going to happen. Both teams simply need to make the final round of World Cup qualifying.)
That’s a big get for the beIN. In past years, ESPN has blown it out when it comes to producing and televising US matches in Mexico. And they’ve done an excellent job. Think 2009 when they sent an entire crew — including Bill Simmons — or earlier this month, a game that had impressive ratings. ESPN was trying to make Azteca happen, and they were succeeding. Now another network jumps in and piggybacks on that effort.
beIN certainly paid plenty for the rights, which are by far the most valuable of the US away matches. You could make an argument they are the most valuable property of all the American World Cup qualifying games, partially because ESPN et al have done such a good job building the mystique of Azteca.
So sure, it cost a pretty peso to acquire the US game in Mexico City. (I suspect, although I don’t know, that the package also includes the rest of Mexico’s WCQ games as well, something ESPN probably wouldn’t pay as much for.) But of you were a new network looking to make a splash and force cable companies to adopt you, buying US-Mexico is a smart way to spend the dough.
You have to credit beIN: They are very, very serious about this entire thing.