DUBAI: Footballco, the world’s largest digital football content and media business, announced the purchase of Kooora, the largest digital sports publisher in the Middle East, in a reported $25 million, all-cash deal earlier this month.
Kooora, the Dubai-based online sports publisher, has dominated online sports news in the Middle East since its launch in Bahrain in 2002 by founder Khalid Al-Doseri.
The acquisition will expand Footballco’s current footprint in the Middle East, which is served by seven local editions of Goal published in both English and Arabic, and will more than double Footballco’s audience in the region and increase its monthly global reach to 640 million fans, according to a company statement.
“Kooora is very excited to become part of Footballco, a fast-growing content and media business with local and international digital sports platforms,” Al-Doseri told Arab News.
He added: “This will empower Kooora with even more international access and to benefit from large-scale commercial opportunities. We see Footballco as talking the same language we do and look forward to being an active part of the synergies such a large network provides.”
Despite the acquisition, Kooora’s content strategy will remain the same. “We plan to continue in our editorial and content direction in our tried-and-tested format, concentrating on what Arabic-speaking sports fans want,” Al-Doseri said.
“We always keep the fan front and center in all our efforts, and this will never change.”
However, the company is looking at potential operational changes to improve efficiency and performance, “and will do these as needed in due course,” he said.
Footballco will also integrate both Kooora and Goal’s operations in the region, and move its regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia, in order to further expand its presence in the region.
The demand for sports content has grown rapidly in the Middle East. “The sheer volume of sports news happening daily at local, regional and global levels on and off the pitch, both professionally and socially, and the need for fast, accurate and relevant sports news has empowered digital platforms that cater to these needs,” said Al-Doseri.
Digital and social media channels have provided both audiences and publishers with a new avenue to consume and disseminate content.
Kooora has 9 million social media followers across various platforms with a “significantly exceptional following from Saudi on our Twitter account,” Al-Doseri said, and averages 25 million unique monthly users.
He added: “Internet usage in MENA continues to grow at a rapid pace, driven by mobile usage, and is now eclipsing traditional print media which further empowers digital sports publishing.”
The free and democratic nature of the internet makes competition inevitable, but Al-Doseri refuses to view other publishers as competitors. Rather, “they complement us in growing the digital sports market further, and we sincerely and wholeheartedly encourage all initiatives in this regard,” he said.
“The more players in the market, the bigger the market size becomes.”
Still, he said, “Kooora has always been ahead of all rivals in Arabic-language digital sports publishing.” The reason for its success has been extensive coverage of sports news from every country in the MENA region, as well as international news.
“Understanding how to cater to each nation locally and yet remaining pan-Arab is a skill we mastered over the past years,” he added.
Although Kooora covers more than 42 different sports, 85 percent of its coverage is football related. The reason for this is simple, said Al-Doseri. “Football is the most popular sport globally, even more so in MENA.”
The platform’s coverage is based on users’ consumption behavior and interest, and therefore its content is largely driven by its readers.
“We do cover many sports that have low viewership in MENA and often highlight these to expose other sports to MENA audiences, but football remains the star attraction on our platform,” Al-Doseri said.
Kooora will provide more in-depth coverage, analytical tools, different content types and formats for its football fans, and probably “periodically and gradually grow other sports according to their popularity scale,” he added.
Although Al-Doseri declined to share details, he said Kooora has plans to expand “in so many different ways.”
“With Footballco now on board, I am more confident to state that our chances to mobilize and expedite these plans have become more achievable than ever before. We are keen to keep the momentum rolling at all times.”