KlowdTV is an OTT provider that’s trying to build a virtual cable system from scratch, one network at a time. They’ve got the skinniest bundles around, and subscribers get a lot of flexibility in picking channels. That’s why it’s so sad to write that last week KlowdTV lost one of its best programmers, beIN Sports.
Some background: beIN Sports began its life as Al Jazeera Sport before being spun off as its own company, still owned and operated by folks in Qatar. You know how, if you’re reading Moby Dick, then everything looks like a whale? The last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading The Ugly Game, a book which claims to describe exactly how soccer enthusiasts in high places in Qatar supposedly spread a lot of wealth to ensure it would host the World Cup in 2022, a plan that’s still controversial.
What I’ve heard is that those deep-pocketed Qataris were also happy to spend big for TV rights to good soccer leagues and then happy to require very little from any system that wanted to distribute beIN Sports, all to build its exposure as soon as possible. For example, beIN Sports is included with several other channels in Sling’s $5/month Sports Extra add-on. In Sling’s international packages, beIN is frequently thrown in for free or in the standalone $10 World Sports package. It’s in fuboTV‘s $7 package. It’s on Dish and DirecTV, and you get the picture.
Last Thursday, KlowdTV CEO Bill O’Hara sent an email with the sad announcement that the beIN Sports channels “will no longer be available” on his service. He wrote, “We are continuing to explore ways to continue our relationship, but at this time there does not appear to be a viable way to continue providing the beIN sports channels.” In a nice gesture, KlowdTV gave subscribers two free months of what’s left of its sports package, which still includes Gol TV and other channels.
I’m a big fan of KlowdTV, which is why I subscribed. One themed package plus one hour of virtual DVR time is just $5/month, extra packages are $3, and several a la carte channels are available separately. So what blocked beIN? Was it a simple rate increase, or that fuboTV wanted OTT exclusivity, or something else? KlowdTV is exhibiting at the NAB Show in a couple of weeks, so I hope to know more then.