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When Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt began a political blockade of Qatar in June 2017, Qatari broadcaster beIN SPORTS was prevented from operating in Saudi Arabia, credit card payments were blocked, criminal sanctions were threatened against any distributors, and its set top boxes were confiscated across the kingdom.
BeIN, one of the largest sports media spenders in the world – with some $15 billion tied up in rights fees, and further billions invested in infrastructure and production – suddenly found the largest of the 24 markets across the Middle East and North Africa it has steadily been amassing exclusive rights in removed from its books. Not only that, but within weeks a pirate service had sprung up in its place, taking beIN content wholesale, and rebroadcasting it, rebadged under the beoutQ name, across Saudi Arabia and the region.
Starting as a ‘standard’ pirate streaming service, by October 2017 beoutQ was transmitting ten live HD channels, curated largely from beIN content, via satellite across the region, selling beoutQ-branded boxes, beoutQ annual subscriptions, publishing a rate card for ads to be inserted into its programming, and setting itself up as a legitimate-looking broadcaster.
The story of beoutQ has certainly helped to change attitudes. And, as it continues, it will certainly help to shift more. Even in an age of advanced internet piracy, beoutQ has proved unique and uniquely challenging. It is sophisticated; it is brazen; and there are very few recourses to shut it down.
This report is an analysis of the unprecedented beoutQ piracy, and a case study on the unprecedented tri-pronged action taken to combat it to date – action split along technological, legal, and political lines. Multiple senior stakeholders – from rights holders, broadcasters, government entities, and legal and technical service providers – have been interviewed but many on the condition of anonymity, a measure of the sensitivity and nervousness around this case.
This report has been written with the support of beIN MEDIA GROUP.