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Al-Jazeera targets Spain

Al-Jazeera is exploring the acquisition of Spanish La Liga rights in a bid to expand its global sports franchise, tweak its business model in a world in which pan-Arab television is on the decline, and compensate for mounting criticism of its coverage of popular revolts in the Middle East and North Africa. The state-owned Qatari television network’s renewed interest in Spanish rights comes as financially troubled Spain’s two major sports broadcasters, Mediapro and Canal Plus, which is owned by Grupo Prisa, struggle under a mountain of debt. It also follows a breakdown in talks with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, according to Spanish news website El Confidencial Digital. Grupo Prisa, with debts estimated at 3 billion euros, and Mediapro, with liabilities of 300 million euros, hinted last year that they would not bid at current rates for the Spanish league rights when the broadcast contract expires in 2016.  Al-Jazeera’s interest in the Spanish rights reaffirms its strategy of moving in behind other Qatari government institutions as they conclude sponsorship agreements and acquisitions, such as the winning of the hosting rights of the 2022 World Cup, the Qatar Foundation and Qatar Airways’ sponsorship of FC Barcelona, and the television network’s acquisition of French broadcasting rights in the wake of the Gulf state’s takeover of Paris St. Germain.

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