Spread of piracy drives down value of TV rights
November 15 2018 11:54 PM
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By Anthony Harwood London Correspondents

*Saudi-based pirate beoutQ channel now available worldwide

Premier League clubs face losing £10mn a year as the spread of piracy drives down the value of TV rights.

Teams like Bournemouth, Burnley and Watford who rely heavily on TV money for nearly 90% of their income will be hit the hardest.

beIN Sports - which pays £328mn to broadcast matches across the Middle East - predicts it may have to cut what it offers by up to 50% because of the rising number people who can now view sport for free.

Sources say piracy was also a key factor in driving down what Sky is paying the Premier League over the next three years - a 12.1% fall from £4.1bn to £3.6bn.

beIN Sports has borne the brunt of piracy being carried out on an industrial scale by Saudi Arabia via the rogue channel, beoutQ.

But the piracy is no longer confined to the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region.

Last month the BBC and Sky asked the EU to take formal action against Saudi Arabia because beoutQ has now become a sophisticated international piracy operation, operating in Europe as well.

Yesterday beIN Sports warned that the ‘contagion of piracy’ is spreading worldwide after it emerged that beoutQ boxes were on sale in London, the United States and parts of Africa.

Under current projections, the Premier League could end up receiving £614mn less in 2022-25, based on a continued 12.1% drop in what Sky pays and beIN Sports slashing what it pays by half.

That works out as £30mn for each club in the Premier League – or £10mn a year.

For clubs like Bournemouth, who rely on TV money for 89.2% of their income, this would amount to a tenth of its income.

Other teams like Burnley (86.8%), who were able to use the funds to qualify for Europe last season, and Watford (88.7%), will be similarly hit.

Daniel Markham, beIN Sport’s Executive Director of Sports Content, said: "The natural consequence of the piracy in Saudi Arabia is that broadcasters around the world - who have, to date, paid enormous amounts for exclusivity of media rights but who now cannot count on exclusivity as a result of beoutQ – will refuse to pay those enormous fees in future."

"Instead 'piracy risk' will be baked-in to commercial evaluations as at the end of the day, why would broadcasters around the world pay for rights that can’t be protected? For instance, we have already renewed some rights on a 50% discount. Rights holders are slowly realising this new reality – some faster than others."

Last year a Saudi-led alliance launched a diplomatic, transport and trade blockade of Qatar, where beIN Sports is based.

To get around its own ban on subscribing to beIN Sports, the Saudis managed to illegally broadcast the programmes on its beoutQ channel via a Riyadh-based satellite, Arabsat.

As well as the Premier League, the Champions League, FIFA World Cup, Serie A, La Ligue, Wimbledon and Formula One were also targeted.

It led to UEFA attacking the Saudi operation saying it was a "significant threat to European football."

To begin with the beoutQ broadcasts were geo-locked to Saudi Arabia.

But they have since gone worldwide with access to illegal content, not just of sport, but also TV drama such as The Bodyguard and Game of Thrones.

Daniel Friedlaender, head of Sky EU Office, told Anna Malmstrom, the European commissioner for trade: "Sky takes all forms of audio-piracy extremely seriously and invests substantial effort and money in protecting its content.

"The problem of audio-piracy is not new but the speed of proliferation of the illegal beoutQ service is particularly alarming, as is the evidence suggesting that the Riyadh-based satellite operator, Arabsat, whose main shareholder is the KSA government, provides satellite services to enable beoutQ distribution."



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