Qatar-based beIN Sports will not renew its TV contract for the rights to broadcast Formula One in the Middle East and North Africa due to ongoing piracy issues in the region.
The five-year, €180 million media rights deal which expired at the end of last season was expected to be renewed for the forthcoming season however beIN Sports has declined to commit amid an ongoing piracy issue which has arisen via the pirate channel 'BeoutQ'
Last year beIN Media Group launched a $1 billion (€863.7 million) case against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its failure to take a tougher stand against the pirate channel BeoutQ who it felt was illegally stealing it its sports rights and rebroadcasting them via a Saudi-owned satellite streaming service as the channel.
Not limited to just F1, the illegal streaming of content has affected the Premier League, UEFA and FIFA - who have started legal action in support of beIN, however it seems F1's new owners Liberty Media have not been so accommodating.
"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." said beIN's managing director for the region, Tom Keaveny. "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."
beIN Sports decision not to extend the contract has now left Liberty Media hunting for a new media rights partner for the MENA territory and many believe it will be impossible for Liberty Media to find an alternative broadcaster willing to pay the sort of revenue beIN Sports did.
Speaking at a recent press event, an F1 spokesman refused to get drawn into the specifics of beIN's complaint confirming only that a search for a broadcaster within the region is ongoing and details will be confirmed shortly.