Premier League begins legal action in Saudi Arabia against piracy of BeIN signal
English soccer’s Premier League has renewed its condemnation of what it called “the illegal broadcast piracy of its matches currently taking place in Saudi Arabia and available in multiple territories throughout the Middle East by an illegal pirate channel called ‘beoutQ’.”
The league said that it has appointed lawyers in Saudi Arabia "to begin the process of bringing legal action against the parties involved in this piracy."
In a statement, the league said: “All 20 Premier League matches played during the first two weekends of the season were broadcast illegally on the channel. ‘beoutQ’ steals content from several legitimate Premier League licensees.
“The Premier League has seen compelling evidence demonstrating ‘beoutQ’ is a highly sophisticated pirate operation which has used the services of satellite provider Arabsat to distribute the illegal content.”
Last week, the Qatar-based BeIN Media Group stepped up its campaign for Saudi Arabia to end what the company called “the industrial-scale piracy of world sport” through 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, BeIN announced 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.”
Then yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition fined BeIN $2.6 million and cancelled its licence to broadcast in the country, in the latest escalation of an apparently highly politicised dispute.
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 BeIN Sports was evident in “monopolising” practices.
BeIN responded furiously, saying: “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.”
In its statement today, the Premier League said: “Global sports and entertainment broadcaster BeIN Media Group is the legitimate rights-holder for the Premier League across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The Premier League recently extended the BeIN Media Group agreement to exclusively broadcast Premier League football matches in the MENA region for the three seasons through to 2021-22.”
The broadcaster has been the regional home of the popular league since the start of the 2013-14 campaign (taking over from rival Abu Dhabi Media), and the announcement tied up one of its most important international rights deals for the next three-year cycle.
Under the agreement, which was concluded ahead of the start of the new Premier League season, BeIN Sports will continue to provide live coverage of all 380 games each year, complemented by pre- and post-match shows, daily highlights and weekly wrap-up programmes on its suite of TV channels in the 23 countries in the MENA region.
This content will also be available on the over-the-top service BeIN Connect accessible on web, tablet and mobile devices.
The Premier League is one of the prize assets of the extensive BeIN Sports soccer offering that also includes the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A, 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.
The retention of the English league is seen as a significant development, with interest in soccer in the Middle East expected to swell in the run-up to the first World Cup in the region, in Qatar in 2022.
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 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.
The Premier League said today that it has “appointed legal counsel in Saudi Arabia to begin the process of bringing legal action against the parties involved in this piracy. Given the strong copyright framework in Saudi Arabia, the Premier League is confident that the Saudi Arabian authorities will ultimately uphold its clear rights when the action is commenced.”
It added that it has “written to the European Commission as part of the Sports Rights Owners Coalition. This is just one of the measures we are taking to address this very serious issue. We operate a significant anti-piracy programme in a range of countries to protect the copyright of the League and our clubs. Like all content creators and rights owners, our business model is predicated on the ability to market and sell protected rights and we will take all available action to support the investment made in the League by our legitimate broadcast partners.”