Facebook gets Masters rights in Middle East as Twitter enters new content partnerships
By Simon Ward
Facebook, the social media giant, will be showing golf’s US Masters, the first major of the year, in full in the Middle East under a deal agreed ahead of the start of the tournament on Thursday.
There will be full, live coverage of the prestigious event at the Augusta National in Georgia in the territories of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel at the official Masters page on Facebook.
The 11th-hour deal, which does not entail a fee, came after Augusta National was unable to secure a television rights deal in the MENA region for this year’s Masters, which concludes on Sunday. US player Patrick Reed (pictured) is the defending champion.
In addition, Facebook is offering selected coverage in all territories of today’s Par 3 Contest, the curtain-raiser to the tournament, and tomorrow’s honorary starters.
All of the content will be available at https://www.facebook.com/TheMasters/
The agreement in the Middle East reflects Augusta’s desire for visibility for the Masters, with the tournament shown on free-to-air networks in many international markets, but also the present complicated broadcasting landscape in that particular region.
It also builds on Facebook’s status in golf after it last year agreed a deal with USA’s PGA Tour to offer selected exclusive live coverage from eight tournaments leading up to the season-ending FedExCup Playoffs.
Facebook offered live streaming throughout USA on Saturday and Sunday mornings from around 8.30am Eastern Time until the coverage of pay-television operator Golf Channel kicked in.
Competition for sports rights in MENA has been impacted by the activity of beoutQ, a pirate broadcaster based in Saudi Arabia that has been stealing the content of BeIN Sports, the Qatar-based international pay-TV network.
This has prompted efforts by BeIN and federations, leagues and other rights-holders to put pressure on the Saudi authorities to close down beoutQ.
The issue was an influencing factor in BeIN’s decision not to renew its big-money agreement to show Formula 1 this year, and the rights to the top motor racing series have now passed to MBC, the free-to-air satellite broadcaster, in a five-year deal running to 2023.
BeIN’s previous five-year deal to broadcast Formula 1 in the MENA region, worth an estimated $30 million to $40 million, expired at the end of last season.
However, BeIN and Formula 1 are among several sports rights-holders named this week as premium video content partners of Twitter in the region.
The multiple partners announced at the TwitterFronts event in Dubai also included MBC and its media partner AMS, Abu Dhabi Media and Dubai Media Inc.
Going forward, the microblogging website is to show behind-the-scenes content from Saudi soccer clubs Al Ahli and Al Ittihad .
Benjamin Ampen, managing director, MENA for Twitter, said: “We’re excited to bring premium content partnerships to these audiences and look forward to seeing continued success by advertisers as they launch new products and services when partnering with such content.”
Twitter presented research showing that soccer, wrestling, tennis and motorsports are among the most popular sports in terms of video content consumed by users of the platform in the region.