F1 in urgent search for MENA broadcaster after BeIN pulls out over piracy
Formula 1 motor racing has been left to urgently seek a new broadcaster in the Middle East and North Africa after BeIN Media Group, the Qatar-based pay-TV broadcaster, said that it would not continue to broadcast the series in the region, in protest at the piracy issues it is facing.
BeIN’s previous five-year deal to broadcast Formula 1 in the MENA region, worth an estimated $30 million to $40 million, expired at the end of last season, and the new season starts in just over a month’s time with the Australian Grand Prix on 17 March.
BeIN last month accused authorities of initially dismissing the threat of pirate broadcaster beoutQ as “a targeted political campaign against BeIN,” instead of recognising it as what BeIN calls “the largest commercial theft that’s ever been seen in the world of sport and entertainment.”
BeIN was responding to a report by Digital TV Research that found that pay-TV revenues for 20 MENA countries fell by 11 per cent between 2016 and 2018 to just under $3 billion.
In a statement that also appeared to imply criticism of Formula 1, Tom Keaveny, BeIN’s managing director of MENA, said: “A rights holder’s stance on beoutQ’s piracy - in other words whether they’re taking legal action, making a public stand, and doing everything within their power to combat the industrial-scale theft of their rights - is a critical factor that we’re now considering when bidding.”
This is despite Formula 1 having issued a statement ahead of last June’s French Grand Prix accusing beoutQ of broadcasting the series without rights.
The statement read: “It has come to our attention that certain Formula 1 content from the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship has been illegally transmitted by the channel known as beoutQ operating primarily within the MENA region.
“beoutQ has not acquired any rights from Formula 1 to transmit coverage of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Formula 1 takes intellectual property infringement of this nature extremely seriously, we are looking in to the issue and those that are involved and will take appropriate action.”
Formula 1 had joined soccer’s Uefa, Fifa and CAF, plus broadcasters Telemundo and Eleven Sports in publicly criticising beoutQ in the weeks before the race.
Speaking exclusively to Sportcal last month, Keaveny said: “What is most frustrating of all is that we have been warning of the utterly corrosive consequences of beoutQ for over 18 months now. What was initially, rather casually, dismissed as a targeted political campaign against BeIN has now morphed into the largest commercial theft that’s ever been seen in the world of sport and entertainment, affecting everyone from the biggest organisations in sport to Hollywood movie studios and international broadcasters.
“The penny is finally dropping that this Saudi-supported plague of piracy represents an existential threat to the economic model of the entire industry, because every day that beoutQ exists, piracy is becoming more normalised across the world. And that’s not to say only in MENA; we’re seeing beoutQ appearing in London, Geneva, Florida USA and elsewhere as pirates are pirating the pirates. Pandora’s Box has been ripped opened by beoutQ and its effects will be irreversible if it is allowed to continue.”
Last month, BeIN launched a new website which, it claimed, “discloses mass dossier of evidence against the Saudi Arabia-supported piracy operation that has stolen the commercial rights of sports and entertainment brands for 18 months.”
The launch of the website was BeIN’s latest move in its increasingly urgent campaign against beoutQ, which BeIN alleges is based in Saudi Arabia and given tacit support by the Saudi state.
The beoutQ service hit the airwaves last year, offering a pirated feed of the channels of BeIN, including BeIN Sports, plus Hollywood films and other entertainment content.
The beoutQ controversy is playing out 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.
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