Saudi Telecom Signs $1.8 Billion Accord for Soccer Rights

Updated on
  • The phone operator last year set up $500m technology fund
  • Saudi Arabia has been mulling plans to privatize soccer clubs

Supporters of Saudi's Al-Hilal attend their team's football match against Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Pro League at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

Photographer: ALI AL-ARIFI/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Telecom Co. signed a $1.8 billion agreement for the right to broadcast and sponsor soccer matches in the kingdom and possibly open a television station, in one of the biggest such deals in the Middle East.

The memorandum of understanding allows the state-controlled company to broadcast local league and cup competitions, in addition to Saudi national team games, according to a statement late Monday. Saudi Telecom will pay the money over 10 years. The company will transmit the games online and could either open a television station or give options to sell the rights to other stations, the government’s Center for International Communications said in a statement on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia has been mulling plans to privatize soccer clubs as part of efforts to overhaul the economy and raise non-oil revenue. Saudi Telecom, 84 percent owned by the government through the Public Investment Fund and other institutions, is seeking more investments in new technology to diversify from traditional sources of revenue, Chief Executive Officer Khaled Biyari said last year.

Read more: Ex-Google Exec Gets $500 Million From STC for Mideast Tech Deals

The company last year set up a $500 million technology fund to be run by ex-Google executive Abdulrahman Tarabzouni to invest in areas such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality. It also invested $100 million in Dubai-based ride-hailing app Careem Networks FZ.

— With assistance by Vivian Nereim

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