ADMC wins regional F1 broadcast rights

Abu Dhabi Media Company, the signer of my paychecks, has just announced its purchase of the regional broadcast rights to Formula One for the next three years. It's hardly a surprising announcement, given that Abu Dhabi just invested heavily in building a Formula One Grand Prix circuit last year and has a vested interest in expanding F1 fandom in the region, but an interesting one nonetheless.

English-speaking fans of F1 have the most reason to cheer because the deal will bring a regional, legal feed in English to the region for the first time. Bahrain previously held the rights, but only broadcast in Arabic. The English feed will be available on E-Vision, Etisalat's ITPV service, beginning immediately with the start of the 2010 season in March. Later this year, it will also be available on ADMC's encrypted channel, which will be rolled out by August, according to Mohammed Najeeb, the head of Abu Dhabi Sports Channels. The Arabic service will be broadcast free-to-air, and there will also be an internet distribution option.

ADMC earned a lot of ink -- and maybe a few arched eyebrows -- recently when it announced its plan to distribute its valuable English Premier League rights via three platforms: broadband internet, IPTV and an encrypted, pay-TV channel. Today's announcement means the pay-TV channel just got a lot more valuable for sports fans, while the mounting sports rights contest between ADMC and Al Jazeera just got a lot more interesting for media watchers.

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