Formula 1 is on the hunt for a new broadcast partner in the Middle East and North Africa, after the Qatar-based BeIN Sports company decided against renewing its deal because of piracy problems.
BeIN Sports’s previous five-year contract ran out at the end of 2018, and there had been discussions about extending it. The Middle East is one of F1’s top 20 markets and estimates have put the value of the deal at more than $30 million a year.
However, amid ongoing unease about the growth of pirate channel ‘BeoutQ’, which has been illegally broadcasting F1 content across the Middle East, BeIN has decided against continuing.
In a statement issued by BeIN, the managing director of its Middle East region Tom Keaveny said that piracy was the driving factor behind its call.
"A rights holder's stance on BeoutQ's piracy - in other words, whether they're taking legal action, making a public stand, and doing everything within their power to combat the industrial-scale theft of their rights - is a critical factor that we now consider when bidding,” he was quoted as saying.
“We pay enormous amounts for media rights, but the natural consequence of Saudi Arabia’s piracy is that those rights cannot be protected so we will pay less for those rights in the future – in particular to the rights holders who pay only lip service to combatting BeoutQ.
“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.
“The international community must take decisive action to bring this state-supported piracy to an immediate end.”
Although BeoutQ has been widely linked with Saudi Arabia, the government there insists it is not based there and has vowed to help stop piracy. It is unclear who owns or funds the channel.
Last year F1 vowed to take action over BeoutQ’s activities, which have also led to measures implemented in other sports.
A statement issued by F1 last year said: “Formula 1 takes intellectual property infringement of this nature extremely seriously, we are looking in to the issue and those that are involved and will take appropriate action."
Motorsport.com has contacted F1 for comment.