Sources tell Doha News that Saudi Arabia is still “in the process of” unblocking the world’s biggest sports network.
On Monday evening the Reuters news agency reported that Saudi authorities had ublocked access in the Kingdom to the Qatari owned beIN Sports network. Sources in Riyadh had also confirmed to Doha News that cafe’s in the Saudi capital were showing English Premier League games on the broadcaster’s channel. beIN has been blocked in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the 2017 blockade on Qatar.
However it has since transpired that the block on beIN has not been lifted and that those accessing the channel were able to do so using other means.
“There is currently no change to beIN SPORTS’ situation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, we are hopeful of positive moves to fully allow beIN back into the country following the recent political reconciliation,” a beIN Media Group spokesperson told Doha News on Tuesday.
Shortly after the 2017 blockade, the Qatari broadcaster was blocked to hundreds of thousands of subscribers in Saudi Arabia.
Two months later, Saudi-based outfit beoutQ, began broadcasting content stolen from beIn. The signal was transmitted using Saudi Arabia-based communications satellite operator, Arabsat.
BeoutQ’s sophisticated theft of intellectual property developed when it launched set-top boxes and started selling subscription packages to air English, Italian, Spanish and German football games.
The channel also pirated numerous international sporting events including Super Bowl LII, the UEFA Champions League Final, the NBA Finals, multiple Formula 1 races, and all 64 matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In a joint statement by FIFA, the AFC, UEFA, the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, LFP and the Premier League on the MarkMonitor publication of an investigative report into the operations of beoutQ, they said:
“The report confirms without question that beoutQ’s pirate broadcasts have been transmitted using satellite infrastructure owned and operated by Arabsat. Cutting off its access to transmission services would be a major step in the fight to stop beoutQ. We all, individually and collectively, remain committed to bringing an end to international sports piracy.”
In June, the World Trade Organisation ruled in favour of beIN Sports in a dispute over the piracy charges.
The ruling, piracy charges and concerns over the kingdom’s human rights record led to the scrapping of a £300 million ($390,930,000) Saudi bid to purchase an 80 percent stake in Premier League team, Newcastle United.
Block expected to be lifted soon
While the network’s website is still blocked in Saudi Arabia and its offices shut, a source with knowledge told Doha News that the Kingdom is in fact “in the process” of paving the way for the network to operate once again.
Questions still remain however about the beOutQ piracy network and whether Saudi Arabia will pay compensation for the millions of dollars beIN lost as a result.