AFC step in to beIN/beoutQ broadcast row to stream Saudi ACL games on its digital channels

By Paul Nicholson

March 12 – Football fans in Saudi Arabia will be able to watch tonight’s Champions League match involving Al Ahli Saudi FC away to Uzbekistan’s Pakhator FC legally and without having to resort to beoutQ’s piracy of BeIN Sport’s broadcast.

The Asian Football Federation (AFC) has stepped in to broadcast the match on its official Champions League Facebook Live and YouTube channels to provide a legal and official way for the game to be watched in Saudi Arabia. Facebook and YouTube will geo-block the broadcast so that it can only be seen in Saudi.

The arrangement is not just for this game with the AFC saying it “will stream the matches involving Saudi Arabia teams played in Saudi Arabia in AFC Competitions on its geo-blocked digital channels”.

The AFC has been locked in a complex and difficult negotiation with BeIN Sport, the broadcast rights holders who have been having their broadcasts pirated by Saudi-based pirate beoutQ, to find a solution to getting matches available officially and legally in the country. BeIN Sport has been declared an illegal channel in Saudi Arabia (the broadcaster is Qatari owned and hence a victim of the Saudi-led economic blockade of the country), which has forced fans to turn to the pirate beoutQ in order to watch games.

beoutQ, driven by illegally broadcast sports and entertainment content (pretty much all of stolen from the beIN Media group’s channels), is now estimated to have sold its boxes into one in five homes in Saudi Arabia. It has become a huge issue for sports rights holders worldwide who are seeing now seeing beoutQ boxes proliferate outside the Middle East

By broadcasting on Facebook Live and YouTube, fans will not have to watch the matches illegally, and the Saudi authorities should theoretically be encouraged to move swiftly to shut down beoutQ’s piracy.

For the AFC it means that fans can see matches officially and that they will be able to fulfil sponsor obligations.

For BeIN Sport it looks like more legal action with the broadcaster having reacted with a press release promising legal action. Yousef Al-Obaidly, Chief Executive Officer, beIN MEDIA GROUP, said: “The AFC’s decision to live-stream directly into Saudi Arabia on the AFC’s own digital platforms is a material breach of our multi-million dollar regional broadcast agreement and we will immediately be launching a major international dispute to recover damages and protect our position.”

The AFC will be taking the international broadcast signal for its transmission. The broadcast will be a full a Champions League production with commentary and ACL branding and graphics.

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