Furious BeIN threatens legal action after Saudi Arabia cancels licence
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition today fined the Qatar-based BeIN Media Group $2.6 million and cancelled its licence to broadcast in the country, in the latest escalation of an apparently highly politicised dispute over piracy of BeIN’s signal in the country, provoking a furious response from BeIN.
Claiming that it was acting in response to “several complaints from BeIN subscribers due to its violation of competition rules in the kingdom,” the authority said that “exploitation” by the BeIN Sports network was evident in “monopolizing” practices.
The authority said that these included: forcing BeIN Sports subscribers to subscribe to other non-sports channels; forcing those who wanted to watch the Euro 2016 tournament to renew their subscriptions for an entire year, even though they covered the period of the tournament; and adding the costs of watching other championships to the subscription fee, even though subscribers did not want to watch these other championships.
However, BeIN has threatened legal action in response, saying: “We vehemently disagree with the Saudi Arabian competition authority’s decision which is manifestly politically motivated. BeIN is being attacked by the Saudi authorities for doing exactly what sports and entertainment broadcasters around the world do, and indeed what other broadcasters active in the Saudi market also do. The decision would require BeIN to meet conditions that no broadcaster anywhere in the world is required to meet.
“This is simply another illegitimate attempt by Saudi Arabia to drive BeIN’s highly successful business from the country, putting politics ahead of the interests of Saudi consumers. It also sends a deeply troubling message to the international business community about the arbitrary conditions of commerce and lack of the rule of law in Saudi Arabia. We are considering all legal options.”
Last week BeIN stepped up its campaign for Saudi Arabia to end what the company calls “the industrial-scale piracy of world sport” through the Saudi-based pirate TV channel beoutQ, citing evidence from three independent companies that the channel is being distributed via the Riyadh-based Arabsat.
Accusing beoutQ of piracy of all 10 of the opening games of English soccer’s Premier League, plus six of the 10 opening games of France’s Ligue 1, Qatar-based BeIN announced last Thursday that “three of the world’s leading digital security, media solutions and technology companies, Cisco Systems, NAGRA and Overon, have today independently and definitively confirmed that the Saudi-based pirate TV channel beoutQ – which has orchestrated a plague of piracy on world sport over the past year – is being distributed on the satellite provider Arabsat.”
It added: “This technical evidence establishes beyond any doubt the involvement of Riyadh-based Arabsat in the most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting that the world has ever seen.”
The move came as France’s Ligue de Football Professionnel threatened legal action in a separate statement, saying that it was "examining all legal options, recourse and remedies that are at its disposal.”
The Premier League is one of the prize assets of the extensive BeIN Sports soccer offering that also includes Spain’s LaLiga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A, Europe’s Uefa Champions League and Europa League, the Fifa World Cup and Uefa European Championships and major competitions from the CAF, AFC and Concacaf regions, as well as Ligue 1.
However, BeIN Sports’ exclusivity is being threatened by the actions of beoutQ, provoking BeIN’s high-profile campaign for intervention over the piracy of its broadcast signal. Last month, Fifa, soccer’s world governing body, began legal action in Saudi Arabia after beoutQ showed matches from the World Cup that was taking place in Russia.
The Saudi Arabian government has denied accusations that the pirate network is operating out of the country.
The campaign is set against the backdrop of a bitter political and economic dispute between Qatar and other Middle East nations, with the small Gulf state having repeatedly and vehemently refuted allegations that it supports terrorism in the region.