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World Cup to Compete With Muslim Holiday in Middle East

In the Middle East, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will overlap with Ramadan, the Muslim holy fasting month and consequently the biggest time of the year for broadcasters, when big-budget skeins and soaps premiere as families gather in the evening to break the daylong fasts and watch TV.

The World Cup lasts for one month, from June 12-July 13, whereas Ramadan’s month will start on June 28, with both events’ programming competing for eyeballs and advertising dollars.

The scheduling conflict between the Arabic scripted TV sweepstakes season, known as Mosalsalat, and soccer was the subject of a recent confab at the Discop TV market in Istanbul titled “World Cup Fans Against Drama Aficionados: Who Is Going to Win During Ramadan 2014?”; however, no clear prediction emerged.

What’s certain is that the World Cup is expected to be a big draw in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where rights are held by Al Jazzera’s BeIN Sports channel, which in 2009 paid a reported $1 billion to purchase a package of rights from Arab Radio and Television that included the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments. The MENA region lacks a comprehensive ratings system.

This year will mark the second World Cup in a row in which the Arab world will have just one team to root for. As in the 2010 edition in South Africa, the Algerian team will be the sole flag carrier for the Middle East and North Africa in Brazil.

But Brazil 2014 will mark the first World Cup with an anthem in Arabic, sung by Mohammed Assaf, winner of “Arab Idol” season 2, produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins in collaboration with Lebanese producer Michel Fadel, and Arabic lyricist Nizar Francis. Titled “#ASSAF360 (YALLA YALLA)” the uplifting Arabic pop tune with some Brazilian beats and a refrain in English was performed live by Assaf at FIFA’s 64th Congress event in Sao Paulo on June 10, and broadcast live to millions, making Assaf the first Arab artist to ever perform at a FIFA World Cup Soccer event.

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