beIN Sports has opted out of bidding for the Formula One television rights in the Middle East region. Liberty Media, which owns the Formula One series, says that it is in discussion with another MENA broadcaster.
A new 5-year deal was on the table but beIN says that the continued piracy by Saudi Arabia and its beoutQ operation made F1 unaffordable. The agreement now coming to end was believed to be costing beIN around $30-$40 million a year. beIN was in fact sub-licensing the races from sports rights-holders MP&Silva which went into administration last year.
Tom Keaveny, beIN’s MD in the region, said that the company will “pay less” for broadcast rights in the future in an effort to combat “industrial-scale theft” carried out by the Saudi group. “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’re now considering when bidding,” Keaveny said.
He added: “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.”
In closing, Keaveny warned: “The international community must take decisive action to bring this state-supported piracy to an immediate end.”
It is not yet known whether this decision will impact the Bahrain or long-running Abu Dhabi GP which takes place at the end of the Formula One season. The new 21-race season starts on March 17th in Australia.