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BeIN declines to renew Bundesliga rights over MENA piracy concerns

Network cites crippling effect of IP theft on German soccer league’s ‘value proposition’.

22 September 2020 Tom Bassam

Getty Images

  • Qatari network’s previous deal was worth €200m
  • Bundesliga in talks with other networks but starts new season without MENA broadcaster
  • ‘Piracy has crippled the market’, says BeIN’s chief sports officer

German soccer’s top-flight Bundesliga started the 2020/21 season without a broadcast partner in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region after pay-TV network BeIN Sports declined to renew its rights deal over piracy concerns.

BeIN’s prior five-year rights deal expired at the end of the 2019/20 season and, according to Bloomberg, the broadcaster was in talks with Bundesliga International, the league’s commercial rights arm, over a new deal of the same length up until the eve of the new campaign.

The Qatar-based network paid €200 million (US$237 million) over the course of its previous deal but has said a new agreement is not commercially viable because of rampant intellectual property theft.

In a statement, BeIN’s chief sports officer Richard Verow said: ‘Our business plan is clear – we will only bid for rights at levels that make economic sense and have a value proposition.

“In the Middle East and North Africa – as we have warned for years – piracy has crippled the market so we have made the decision not to renew with Bundesliga there.

“However, Bundesliga is – and remains – a fantastic partner of ours and we continue to promote German football in markets all over the world.”

BeIN has been the biggest victim of Saudi-based pirate network BeoutQ, which no longer operates via satellite distribution but continues as an IP platform. BeIN chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly has previously said the company considers all sports media rights “non-exclusive” as a result of broadcast piracy.

Al-Obaidly told SportsPro last year: “In the MENA [region], currently there is no exclusivity, and our offers will reflect that. In many cases we won’t renew, or we will reduce our offer significantly.”

BeIN’s prior decision to turn down an extension with Formula One in February 2019 was also due to piracy concerns. The company also secured financial compensation on its multi-territory, US$170 million-a-year Serie A rights deal in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown after refusing to air matches in the MENA region over the Italian soccer league’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

As for the German soccer league, Robert Klein, the Bundesliga International chief executive, confirmed to SportBusiness that it is in “active discussion” with other broadcasters in the region.

Further afield, Bundesliga International has secured rights deals with four Mexican networks. After announcing the agreement for its main two-year broadcast partnership with Sky México on the 18th September, Germany's elite soccer league has added deal with Claro Sports, Fox Sports México and TV Azteca.

Sky Sports will broadcast three matches per week, the German Super Cup, as well as the Bundesliga promotion and relegation matches exclusively in Mexico and Central America. With the contract also including non-exclusive rights to six other matches, as well as 2.Bundesliga fixtures. All Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund matches will be aired on the pay-TV network.

Fox Sports México will also air 50 games per season in Mexico; while TV Azteca will have the rights to the games on Friday nights.

Claro Sport will broadcast one game per fixture round in 17 Latin American countries, excluding Brazil, where commercial broadcaster Bandeirantes picked up free-to-air rights, to complement the deal with OneFootball, whereby all matches from the top two divisions are being streamed for free on the digital platform's app.

Bundesliga started the 2020/21 season without a broadcast partner in the MENA region after BeIN Sports declined to renew its rights deal

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