BeIN Media Group, the Qatar-controlled pay-television sports broadcaster, has struck a strategic partnership with Saudi Media Co. (SMC), the advertising sales agency with ties to the Saudi government, as relations between the two countries continue to thaw.

The one-year agreement will see SMC act as BeIN’s exclusive advertising partner in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for all its channels, including for coverage of the upcoming FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which is being broadcast in the region and in France by BeIN.

BeIN said the partnership is “in line with global advertising trends that promote fostering an environment that stimulates creativity and innovation in the digital industry for local and international advertising companies.”

Reuters has reported that a source valued the deal “in the region of $150 million.”

SMC chief executive Khalid Waleed Alkhudair said: “This agreement with BeIN provides us with an opportunity to implement SMC’s strategy of flexible and effective advertising and marketing services.

“We plan to utilize our top-of-the-line service models, with comprise of the latest in advertising systems, in line with the global development in the industry, and evolving market demands.”

BeIN Media chief executive Mohammad Al-Subaie added: “The agreement is not only commercially significant but will also enable advertisers to reach a huge audience who are tuned into BeIN’s various channels within the MENA region, through a leading media sales agency.

“More so, this partnership is a testament to the success of BeIN’s growth strategy and its advancement both in MENA and globally.

“This is simply the beginning of our plans at BeIN, and this agreement is just one of many success stories which have been announced this year, with more to come.”

The deal comes nearly two years after Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states announced it would end its bitter political and economic dispute with Qatar over allegations by the four nations that the small Gulf state supported terrorism in the region – an allegation the Qatari government vehemently denied. 

The dispute spilled over into sports in 2017 when Saudi Arabia barred BeIN from broadcasting in the kingdom after the operator accused the Saudi government of covertly backing the illegal mass digital pirating of its rights in the region, including English soccer’s Premier League and other major sporting properties, by pirate channel BeoutQ.

The Saudi-based satellite broadcaster Arabsat was widely believed to be behind the distribution of BeoutQ, with the full knowledge of the country's government, and BeIN’s subscription numbers and revenues were severely affected by the pirating.

The broadcaster responded by launching a $1-billion investment arbitration claim against Saudi Arabia in 2018 for being banned from the kingdom and “subjected to what has been described as the most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting the world has ever seen.”

However, last year the dispute was resolved at a government level, with BeIN re-emerging as a broadcaster in Saudi Arabia. Lifting its ban on the broadcaster also removed a key obstacle in the way of the Saudi state-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF) taking over English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United.

Earlier this month, it was reported the PIF is seriously considering investing in BeIN Media Group. If completed, the move would represent a seismic acquisition by the investment vehicle and would also be a significant moment in the evolution of the relationship between the two kingdoms.

The new partnership and reports of investment in BeIN come a month before the start of the men’s FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which runs from November 20 until December 18.

Saudi Arabia is now reportedly preparing a bid alongside Egypt and Greece to host the 2030 edition of the tournament.