Middle East broadcaster walks away from F1 deal over piracy

Middle East broadcaster BeIN Sports has walked away from renewal discussions with Formula 1 due to unresolved piracy issues from Saudi Arabia linked outlet, beoutQ.

The Qatari-owned network BeIN Sports, has reportedly stepped away from renewing a potential five-year deal with F1 commercial owners Liberty Media for 2020 and beyond.

The broadcaster currently has one year left on its broadcasting agreement with Formula One Management for the 2019 F1 season, a deal reportedly worth $30-40 million, according to Bloomberg.

FOM had released a statement in June 2018 regarding beoutQ's behaviour of broadcasting F1 content without acquiring the rights to the series in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region.

In the statement, it also said: "Formula 1 takes intellectual property infringement extremely seriously, we are looking into the issue and those involved will take the appropriate action."

Tom Keaveny, managing director of BeIN took an indirect swipe at FOM by saying in his statement that they had only paid 'lip service' in dealing with beoutQ's continued pirating efforts.

Keavney added: "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.

"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 combating 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."

FOM has yet to confirm if another broadcaster will step in beyond the 2020 F1 season.