beIN Media Group’s CEO, Yousef Al-Obaidly, has warned sports rights-holders, broadcasters and sponsors that “the glorious media rights bubble is about to burst [because] piracy has spread to every corner of the globe and every part of society”.
Al-Obaidly, speaking at the Sport Business Summit in London, said that beIN Sports had been very badly affected by the large-scale piracy operation organised by Saudi Arabia’s beoutQ pirates, and added that while most people think they’ve got their house in order, “the truth is that our industry is completely unprepared.”
“We now live in a world where exclusive broadcast rights are, effectively, wholly non-exclusive,” he warned. “And I can tell you that as the largest buyer of sports rights in the world, because of beoutQ in MENA and piracy generally, we now regard all sports rights as non-exclusive and our commercial offers will reflect that.”
“Our industry and rights-holders in particular are still sleep-walking towards a financial cliff.” He reminded his audience that the top 25 ‘most watched’ global broadcasts are all sports-based.
But he warned that the glory days are over. “The endless growth of sports rights is over. Not only that, but in certain cases, rights values are going drop off a cliff, and the very economic model of our industry is going to be re-written.”
An independent study, from Leaders in Sport, found that beoutQ has been “operating the single most extensive, most comprehensive and audacious pirate broadcast operation in the history of modern media”; with up to three million beoutQ boxes currently in circulation in Saudi Arabia and the wider region which have access to live sport and entertainment from countries across the world through illegal IPTV apps.
Al-Obaidly was blunt, and told delegates at the Summit: “Our industry took too long to take piracy seriously, shown by the fact that beoutQ was fully operational for two years and is still partially operational today. And because at the end of these two years, the industry has not learned any lessons.”