Sun, Feb 10, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Qatar’s beIN Sports declines to renew F1 broadcast rights deal due to piracy

Reuters, LONDON

Qatar-based beIN Sports on Friday said that it had decided not to renew a contract for the rights to broadcast Formula One in the Middle East and North Africa as a consequence of piracy in the region.

The previous five-year deal expired at the end of last season. This year’s 21-race world championship starts in Australia on March 17.

BeIN Sports, which also has the local rights to the English Premier League and other major soccer leagues and tournaments, has urged sports bodies to take legal action in Saudi Arabia against illegal broadcasts.

In 2017, a TV service called BeoutQ emerged after Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar, accusing the tiny Persian Gulf state of supporting terrorism, which Doha has denied.

BeoutQ is widely available in Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh has said that it is not based there and that authorities are committed to fighting piracy.

It is unclear who owns or operates the service.

“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,” beIN Middle East and North Africa managing director Tom Keaveny said in a statement.

Keaveny said that beIN, a pay-TV broadcaster, paid huge sums for media rights and had warned for nearly two years of the commercial impact of piracy.

BeIN would pay less for rights that cannot be protected, he said.

Formula One, which holds lucrative races in Saudi Arabian regional allies Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, declined to comment on the suggestion that it had not done enough to combat beoutQ.

The sport, owned since 2017 by US-based Liberty Media, in June last year said that it was investigating alleged illegal broadcasts of its content in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Formula One takes intellectual property infringement of this nature extremely seriously; we are looking into the issue and those that are involved, and will take appropriate action,” it said at the time.

A Formula One insider said that the beIN contract was originally a sublicense agreement with MP & Silva, a sports marketing and media rights company that went into administration late last year.

The overall contribution, in percentage terms, to Formula One’s annual broadcast revenues of the beIN deal was put in the mid-single digits and a replacement broadcast deal was reportedly close to being finalized.

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