Al Jazeera to launch Arabic sports news channel soon


Bilal Mohammed

The first sports news TV channel in the Middle East will be launched by Al Jazeera Sports in the next few months.

The 24-hour channel will air exclusive sports news as well as talk shows and programmes linked to events to which Al Jazeera Sports has the exclusive TV rights.

"The new Arabic-language channel aims to enlighten viewers about what is happening in the world of sports and provide them with comprehensive coverage of the most important international events," Mohammed Ammor, Director of the News Department, Al Jazeera Sports, told Emirates Business.

"The channel will be a source of sports news rather than just news. We are already the source of many exclusive news stories, but there will be many more exclusives once the new channel is launched."

Qatar-based Al Jazeera Sports already has 11 channels, including two free-to-air ones, eight encrypted ones and a high-definition service. The network has the exclusive Middle East rights to many major sports events, including the UEFA Champions League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and National Basketball Association matches.

"Sometimes our sports channels do not have enough time to deliver sports news bulletins as live games are broadcast on all the channels," added Ammor.

"But when the new channel is launched viewers will be able to watch sports news on a regular basis.

"At present viewers cannot watch, for example, all the Champions League matches as they are played at the same time on two days of the week. But soon we will be able to broadcast all the goals and highlights from the games live on the sports news channel.

"There will be optimum utilisation of all the TV rights that we have. The channel will also broadcast talk shows and special programmes about the most important events we cover."

Asked why the network has decided to launch the venture at this time, Ammor said: "Al Jazeera had been planning to carry out this project for a long time but it takes time to implement it. There was a feasibility study as well as engineering study carried out it is not at all easy to launch a TV channel."

He said the fall out from the global economic crisis had not affected the plans for the channel.

"If the crisis had affected the project it would have been postponed or cancelled. There will be new recruitment, a new studio, a new newsroom, new commentating rooms and a great deal of new equipment. This is part of a large investment by Al Jazeera Sports led by General Director Nasser Al Khelaifi."

He said Al Jazeera Sports' correspondents around the world would provide the new channel with reports.

"The tournaments, of which we have exclusive rights, will be given priority in the bulletins but other tournaments will not be neglected and will have their share of coverage too.

"We will deal with events in a professional and objective way. We have agreements with British channels who will provide us with interviews, reports and news."