BeIN Media fined $2.6 mn by Saudi competition watchdog, license terminated

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Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition has fined the BeIN Media Group $2.6 million while also cancelling the Qatar-based network’s licence to broadcast in the country for violating the Saudi competition laws.

The latest move by Saudi Arabia comes as a defiance and brazened stand on the escalating row over the country-based BeoutQ’s broadcast of pirated BeIN’s signals in the region.  The clash took an ugly turn after the BeIN claimed that all 10 of the Premier League matches of 2018-19 season along with six of the 10 opening games of Ligue 1 were illegally broadcast live by BeoutQ.

BeIN have last week claimed that it has irrefutable evidence that Arabsat (Arab Satellite Communications Organization) is backing a “industrial-scale piracy of world sport. It further said that three of the world’s leading digital security, media solutions and technology companies – Cisco Systems, NAGRA and Overon – have independently and definitively confirmed that the pirate television channel is being distributed on Arabsat platforms.

Also Read: beIN Sports secures Premier League media rights in Middle East and North America 

However, the Saudi competition watchdog has sanctioned the Doha-based company, stating that the penalties are the result of “several complaints from BeIN subscribers due to its violation of competition rules in the kingdom.” BeIN Sports has been accused of forcing subscribers to pay for the other irrelevant channels, while also creating whole year subscription packages for anyone looking to watch the Euro 2016 soccer tournament – a month-long competition.

BeIN, while terming the move as politically motivated, has threatened legal action in a statement. “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.

Also Read: BeIN Sports acquire IPL rights for MENA region

“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,” read the statement.

BeoutQ, the channel at the centre of the row, is thought to be a product of the current trade ban between Saudi Arabia and Qatar amid rising geopolitical tensions, which means fans in the former country do not have access to BeIN. Saudi Arabia has consistently denied its involvement in the pirate network, with the country’s ministry of media releasing a statement in July condemning suggestions that it has been complicit in the operation of the service.

Last week, LFP has escalated the matter of BeoutQ’s illegal streaming of Ligue 1 matches to the European Commission (EC) while also writing to Arabsat to demand that it prevents the pirate channel from using its satellites to broadcast stolen content. In addition, the LFP said it is examining all legal options, recourse and remedies that are at its disposal.

Also Read: Media Rights Piracy: Premier League, LFP move European Commission against BeoutQ