Middle East broadcaster Al Jazeera is in discussions over the purchase of the Orange Sport channel with France Telecom, according to the latter’s chief executive, Stephane Richard.
“What will happen to our soccer channel remains an open question,” Mr Richard told Dow Jones. “Al Jazeera has stated an interest and talks are underway; it is a bit early to say more, but it is a possible option.”
In a surprise move last month, the Qatar-based TV network Al Jazeera won the French broadcast rights to two French Ligue 1 football matches per week for a reported EUR 90 million, in effect sharing national coverage of the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) with French pay-TV channel Canal+ between 2012 and 2016.
Al Jazeera Sports had earlier outbid Eurosport for the rights to transmit LFP games to an international TV audience outside the borders of France, at the price of EUR 200 million.
Qatar’s interest in French football has been ramped up of late. The Qatari Government’s investment arm, Qatar Investment Authority - which counts Harrods and a large share of Porsche among its assets – has recently taken a 70% majority stake in French football club Paris St Germain for an estimated EUR 50 million.
In addition to Al Jazeera, Mr Richard has previously named a number of interested parties in the long anticipated takeover of Orange Sport, including the LFP, TF1, ESPN and Ma Chaîne Sport.