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Qatar sports broadcaster beIN denies changes in Saudi services

beIN channels have been blocked in Saudi Arabia for three years [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 January, 2021

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Subscribers of Qatar's sports broadcaster beIN have reported an alleged resumption of services in Saudi Arabia after a three-year ban.
Qatar-based sports broadcaster beIn has reportedly been accessible to subscribers in Saudi Arabia, just weeks after Doha reconciled with its neighbours following a rift, although the company denied a change in circumstances.

The beIN network, which holds exclusive rights to broadcast major sports games across the region, allegedly resumed service in the Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, according to residents of the country.

However, in a statement to Doha News on Tuesday, beIN said there have been no changes.

There is currently no change to beIN Sports’ situation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, we are hopeful of positive moves to fully allow beIN back into the country following the recent political reconciliation,” a beIN Media Group spokesperson told the Qatari news outlet.

Saudi Arabia has yet to comment on the news.

Riyadh blocked transmission of beIN Sports in 2017, following a blockade on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt that year.

In July, Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Competition (GAC) permanently terminated the license of Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports.

The GAC also fined the broadcaster 10 million Saudi riyals.

The month before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled in Qatar's favour and slammed Saudi Arabia for its connections to pirate sports channels beOutQ.

Doha also filed a complaint in 2018 about Saudi Arabia's alleged breaches of trade rules and illegal business practices with regards to beIN Sports and beOutQ.

BeOutQ has illegally streamed beIN Sports' exclusive regional coverage of English Premier League games and other European football leagues, and the WTO has strongly condemned Saudi Arabia for breaking intellectual property rights by refusing to take action against the pirate broadcaster.

The ruling had a major impact on a Saudi sovereign wealth fund-backed takeover bid for the UK's Newcastle United football team that was valued at £300 million (US$390,930,000).

Qatar’s beIN is currently engaged in a court case against Saudi Arabia, seeking $1 billion in damages, which sources said could be dropped if the kingdom reinstates its license to broadcast, Reuters has reported.

Saudi Arabia is beIN’s biggest subscriber base and accounts for its biggest commercial market in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Reuters.

The latest developments come weeks after GCC members Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE re-established ties with Qatar after breaking them off in June 2017 over allegations that Qatar was working with Iran and Islamist groups. Doha has consistently denied the accusations.

The Al-Ula Declaration, restoring relations between Qatar and the three GCC countries, was signed at the annual GCC summit earlier this month.

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