beoutQ

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beoutQ
BeOutQ logo.jpg
Launched2017
Owned byUnknown
CountryUnknown
LanguageArabic
Broadcast areaSaudi Arabia
HeadquartersUnknown

beoutQ is a pirate pay television broadcaster serving Saudi Arabia. Established in 2017, the service primarily simulcasts the programming of the Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports, with beoutQ on-air logos overlaid over those of beIN Sports. The channels have similarly taken content from other broadcasters, and its set-top boxes also contain access to various IPTV services carrying other forms of live channels and entertainment content. The service launched shortly after beIN was forced to stop selling its services in Saudi Arabia, due to an ongoing diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Arab countries over alleged government support of terrorist groups. beoutQ set-top boxes and subscriptions have since become widely available in the country.

The service has faced criticisim from beIN Sports' owner, beIN Media Group, and sports rightsholders, due to its copyright infringement of event coverage that was licensed exclusively to beIN Sports in the MENA region. beIN Sports' managing director has described beoutQ as being engaged in "industrial-scale theft" of its programmes, and warned that the service could "normalise piracy" in the country. He also warned that beIN would reduce the value of its bids for future rights deals, as it can no longer guarantee that its rights would be protected. Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for seemingly taking little action against the service, despite statements to the contrary by the government. The United States Trade Representative labelled beoutQ as a "notorious market" in its Special 301 Report for 2019.

From where the beoutQ signals originate is currently unclear; beIN has presented evidence that the signals originate from the Arabsat satellites—a position backed by a French court, but denied by Arabsat. Saudi Arabian officials (including the Ministry of Media) have denied that beoutQ is based in the country, and have considered beIN's evidence to be "baseless". In parallel with beoutQ, the Saudi government has also accused beIN Sports of having a near-monopoly position in the market, and of participating in a smear campaign against the kingdom with its sister company Al Jazeera. beoutQ has aired propaganda echoing the monopoly allegations and accusing beIN of "politicising sport". In August 2018, beIN Sports was formally banned from broadcasting in Saudi Arabia after being accused of forced bundling of its services with unrelated channels, and the network lost its AFC football rights in March 2019 using the prior decision as a basis. beIN considered these moves to be politically-motivated.

History[edit]

The Qatar-based beIN Sports is the dominant broadcaster of sports programming in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), It had held rights to prominent events such as the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, Asian Football Confederation (including the AFC Asian Cup), La Liga, and Premier League in association football, Formula One racing, international tennis events, and other events.[1][2]

In June 2017, as part of a a diplomatic crisis over alleged funding of extremist groups by the government of Qatar, beIN was banned from selling its subscriptions in Saudi Arabia, and the beIN Sports channels were briefly banned in the United Arab Emirates (the ban was reversed the following month).[3][4][5]

A few months later, a new subscription service known as beoutQ emerged, which repackaged the beIN Sports channels as their own by overlaying its own digital on-screen graphics (DOG) on the feed. Initially, the service was distributed online, but later began to be distributed via 10 satellite channels.[6] The service's launch was backed by a social media campaign on Twitter; Saud al-Qahtani, former adviser to King Abdullah, participated in the campaign.[6] It was reported that the service's associated decoder boxes and subscriptions had become widely available across the country,[7][8][9][10] bundled with a free one-year subscription.[6]

The origin of the signals are unclear: beoutQ initially claimed that it was backed by Colombian and Cuban investors. However, this claim was denied by local officials in the two countries.[11] Analysis by beIN traced beoutQ's feeds to the Arabsat satellites (whose frequencies were frequently promoted in beoutQ's advertising). Arabsat has consistently denied that it is involved in beoutQ.[8][7][10]

In parallel with the diplomatic disputes and beoutQ, Saudi Arabian authorities have increasingly targeted beIN Sports, accusing it of holding a near-monopoly position over the market,[12][13] and engaging in forced bundling of its services with other unrelated channels.[14]

Programming[edit]

Initially, most of its telecasts came verbatim from beIN, but beoutQ later began to obtain content from other sources, such as Eleven Sports and the U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo (the U.S. Spanish rightsholder of FIFA tournaments).[15] The beoutQ set-top boxes include IPTV apps (including one described as being the "Netflix of piracy"), with access to other pirated films, television programmes, and live television channels.[6]

The channels have broadcast propaganda attacking Qatar and beIN; one such example included a cartoon short where a beIN Sports executive (depicted as a cigar-smoking businessman surrounded by piles of money) realises that beoutQ was stealing away his customers. He attempts to meet representatives of FIFA (including a cartoon portrayal of its president Gianni Infantino), UEFA, and the Premier League, but they all ignore him. When he gets home, he discovers that his children were also watching beoutQ. The short ended with the caption "No to monopoly, no to politicising sport."[16][10]

Reactions[edit]

The owner of beIN Sports, beIN Media Group, has condemned the beoutQ service.[17][2] beIN Sports' managing director Tom Keaveny has described the operation as being "at an industrial level",[17][10] and accused the service of "normalising piracy" – especially with the redevelopment of the film industry after Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on cinemas in 2018 (as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative).[6] In what Keaveny described as being "cat and mouse" tactics, the beIN Sports channels implemented on-air measures to frustrate beoutQ—including having occasionally changed the position of its DOG so that beoutQ would have to reposition its own to cover the beIN DOG again, and intermittent watermarks within the feed that are harder to obscure.[6] Likewise, due to increased on-air discussion of the service by beIN, beoutQ began to increasingly employ its own, local commentators, dubbed over the beIN Sports video.[6]

FIFA attempted to indirectly negotiate a deal with beIN to sub-license rights to all Saudi team matches and the final at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, to a Saudi Arabian broadcaster. However, no deal was reached, and beoutQ ultimately broadcast the entire tournament from various sources, including beIN and the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (who was offering Arabic-language broadcasts).[18][19] During the World Cup, beIN Sports commentators were accused by Saudi critics, including General Sports Authority head Turki Al-Sheikh, of making on-air comments critical of the country.[20] On 22 June 2018, Saud al-Qahtani stated that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation had filed a complaint with FIFA against beIN Sports' alleged monopolization of sports broadcast rights in the MENA region. He also stated that the government had been confiscating beoutQ equipment, and would "conduct inspection campaigns in coordination with all relevant bodies to prevent any attempt to broadcast any illegal content."[21][22]

After the All-England Club—organisers of Wimbledon, issued a press release against beoutQ and in support of beIN, the Ministry of Media accused the Club of "parroting" beIN's accusations surrounding Arabsat and beoutQ, which it considered to be "baseless" and lacking credible evidence. It took issue with the club's description of beoutQ as being a "Saudi Arabian-based" service, stating that "suggesting that the [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] is in any way complicit in beoutQ's operation both offends the Saudi people and is a malicious lie."[23] Furthermore, the Ministry of Media described beIN as having engaged in an "irresponsible smear media campaign" against Saudi Arabia by means of its sister company, Al Jazeera Media Network, which it described as "a media platform for terrorists to propagate their violent messages and to promote instability in the region."[23]

On 21 August 2018, beIN Sports was fined US$2.6 million by Saudi Arabia for violations of competition law, including forced bundling of its services with other unrelated channels. beIN responded to the fine by claiming it was politically-motivated, arguing that they were 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", and that the actions were "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."[14] Two days later, beIN Sports' license to broadcast in Saudi Arabia was officially revoked.[24]

During legal proceedings in the United States, beIN linked the beoutQ website to Saudi businessman Raed Khusheim, who is CEO of the UAE-based television provider Selevision. Khusheim denied the claims, arguing that it was a "smear campaign" by beIN stemming from business disputes.[25] On 2 October 2018, Qatar filed a case against Saudi Arabia with the World Trade Organization, citing violations of the TRIPS Agreement. The same day, beIN Media Group also initiated an investment arbitration lawsuit against Saudi Arabia seeking US$1 billion in damages, citing beoutQ and other measures decided to hinder its business in Saudi Arabia.[26][27] In November 2018, the BBC and Sky plc issued letters to European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, urging that action be taken against beoutQ's operations.[28]

Keaveny stated in February 2019 that rightsholder stances on beoutQ's "industrial-scale theft" would now be a consideration in future rights deals, and that it would also pay less because these rights cannot be protected.[29] He went on to explain that "we have been warning of the very real commercial consequences of beoutQ's theft of world sport and entertainment for almost two years now – yet the piracy continues with impunity every day and represents an existential threat to the economic model of the sports and entertainment industry." beIN also stated that it declined to renew its Formula One rights due to these market conditions. The rights would be acquired by the free-to-air satellite channel MBC Action; the channel is owned by the Middle East Broadcasting Center, which is majority-owned by the Saudi government.[29][30]

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) condemned beoutQ for airing the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, stating that it "has already instructed counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia and is working alongside other sports rights owners that have also been affected to protect its interest."[31] However, in March 2019, the AFC pulled its rights in Saudi Arabia from beIN Sports (moving them to an in-house streaming platform), in support of the Saudi claims that the network holds a monopoly.[32] beIN announced that it would pursue legal action, considering the actions politically-motivated, and accusing the AFC of colluding with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to violate its contract.[33]

In April 2019, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) published its annual Special 301 Report on U.S. trade barriers created by insufficient protection of intellectual property rights. The report designated beoutQ as a "notorious market", stating that despite claims by Saudi officials that the set-top boxes were being seized, "such devices nevertheless continue to be widely available and are generally unregulated in Saudi Arabia", and that the country "has not taken sufficient steps to address the purported role of Arabsat in facilitating beoutQ's piracy activities." Saudi Arabia was also added to the report's "Priority Watch List", for its "failure to address longstanding IP concerns and the further deterioration of IP protection and enforcement within its borders."[34]

In June 2019, beIN laid off 300 employees, citing the piracy issues as a factor.[35] The same month, a French court ruled that Arabsat was responsible for the transmission of the beoutQ signals; it was observed that during independent tests commissioned by the court, beoutQ's satellite frequencies changed frequently to evade detection.[11]

Under a contract signed with the General Sports Authority in 2018, Italy's Serie A is hosting the Supercoppa Italiana (an annual super cup game between the winners of the Serie A and Coppa Italia) in Saudi Arabia at least three times over the next five years, with the first occurring in 2019. The deal has faced controversy due to both Saudi Arabia's human rights record, as well as beoutQ.[36] In June 2019, the Serie A's new CEO Luigi De Siervo stated that he would not rule out pulling Saudi Arabia's hosting rights in response to the beoutQ controversy, stating that "we have already taken legal action, we will start shortly to make a strong campaign towards our Government and other Governments to bring the beoutQ phenomenon to the total reduction."[37]

Insiders told The Hollywood Reporter that Saudi firms had been reluctant to publicly side against beoutQ, due to the service potentially having ties to the Saudi government. It was noted that the MENA Anti-Piracy Coalition stated that it was "fully activated" on the issue of beoutQ. However, at a MENA Anti-Piracy Conference held in Abu Dhabi in April 2019, there was little to no discussion of beoutQ, and an industry member was allegedly told by a moderator to not go "too far" on discussing the service due to the possibility of legal issues. The organisers of the conference denied that such a restriction existed.[6]

In July 2019, FIFA, the AFC, the Bundesliga, La Liga, the Serie A, and UEFA issued a joint statement condemning beoutQ, and urged Saudi authorities to take "swift and decisive action" against the broadcaster. The parties stated that they "have reached the conclusion, regrettably, that it is now not possible to retain legal counsel in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is willing or able to act on our behalf".[38]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Premier League gets tough with Saudi piracy". Gulf-Times (in Arabic). 21 August 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Qatar's BeIN Sports Says It Has Proof of Saudi Role in Piracy Dispute". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  3. ^ Alkhalisi, Zahraa (8 June 2017). "Blocked in Dubai: Qatar cartoon and soccer channels". CNN. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  4. ^ "UAE restores Qatar's BeIN sports network on air". Al Jazeera. 23 July 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  5. ^ McCombe, Steven; Pennington, Roberta (22 July 2017). "BeIN Sports back on TV in the UAE". The National. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Could This Be the World's Biggest State-Sponsored Piracy Operation?". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  7. ^ a b "World Cup pirates: Saudi Arabia's BeIN action threatens future of international sports broadcasting". SportsPro. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  8. ^ a b Wintour, Patrick (21 August 2018). "Premier League games 'screened illegally via Saudi satellite firm'". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  9. ^ "BeoutQ illegally shows opening Premier League and Ligue 1 games". SportsPro. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d Panja, Tariq (9 May 2018). "The Brazen Bootlegging of a Multibillion-Dollar Sports Network". The New York Times.
  11. ^ a b "BeoutQ pirates every game of Women's World Cup in France". Broadband TV News. 15 June 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Saudis dismiss beIN Sports' FIFA World Cup TV piracy claim". ArabianBusiness.com. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  13. ^ "FIFA Accuses BeoutQ Of Illegally Broadcasting Games". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  14. ^ a b "BeIN Sports fined by Saudi authorities as BeoutQ row hots up". SportsPro. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  15. ^ "NBCUniversal says FIFA World Cup broadcasts were stolen in Middle East". ArabianBusiness.com. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Saudi Arabia, cartoon pirates and the great TV sports rights robbery". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  17. ^ a b "BeIN could scale back rights deals over lack of BeoutQ support". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  18. ^ "Why Arabs are watching a pirated World Cup feed". The Economist. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  19. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (13 June 2018). "World Cup: Diplomatic Crisis in Middle East Stokes Fears of Piracy". Variety. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  20. ^ "Saudi considers legal action after 'politicised' beIN Sports World Cup coverage". ArabianBusiness.com. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Saudis dismiss beIN Sports' FIFA World Cup TV piracy claim". ArabianBusiness.com. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  22. ^ "FIFA Accuses BeoutQ Of Illegally Broadcasting Games". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  23. ^ a b Mann, Colin. "Saudi Arabia rejects Wimbledon piracy claims". Advanced Television. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  24. ^ "Saudis ban beIN Sports". Advanced Television. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  25. ^ Stancati, Margherita (6 September 2018). "An Unlikely Victim of Saudi Arabia's Dispute With Qatar: TV Rights". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  26. ^ "BeIN launches US$1bn suit against Saudi Arabia over BeoutQ 'piracy plague'". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  27. ^ "BeIn Sports launches $1 billion suit against Saudi Arabia". Broadband TV News. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  28. ^ "BBC and Sky call for EU action over BeoutQ piracy". SportsPro. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  29. ^ a b "BeIN Sports opts out of F1 rights renewal amid BeoutQ stand-off". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  30. ^ "Dubai's MBC picks up F1 rights in Mena until 2023". SportBusiness Media. 18 March 2019. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  31. ^ January 10; 2019. "AFC Condemns BeoutQ's Pirated Asian Cup Broadcasts". www.sportsbusinessdaily.com. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  32. ^ "AFC cancels BeIN Sports rights in Saudi Arabia". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  33. ^ "BeIN Sports to launch AFC legal action". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  34. ^ "US places Saudi Arabia on Watch List amid BeoutQ piracy case". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  35. ^ "BeIN Sports lays off 300 jobs in Qatar in wake piracy issues". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  36. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (21 January 2019). "Qatar's beIN Group Calls on Hollywood to Help Fight Pirate Broadcaster Allegedly Backed by Saudi Arabia (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  37. ^ "Serie A prepared to pull Suppercoppa from Saudi Arabia over BeoutQ - SportsPro Media". SportsPro Media. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  38. ^ Sweney, Mark (31 July 2019). "World's football bodies urge Saudi Arabia to stop pirate TV service". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 August 2019.

External links[edit]

  • beoutq.tv, a website published by beIN Media Group that discusses its allegations and findings surrounding beoutQ.