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May 17, 2018

BeIN Sports has a Billion Dollar Piracy Problem

  • Blog
  • Media & Entertainment

BeIN Sports, the Qatar based sports network has a billion dollar piracy problem on its hands and how it plays out could impact the value of sports licensing all over the world.

In a nutshell, BeIN’s content is being stolen by the aptly named BeoutQ, a company set up in Saudi Arabia to illegally rebroadcast BeIN’s live sports content to viewers in Saudi Arabia. If that’s not enough, they are also selling their set-top boxes throughout the Middle East, loaded with access to the channels over the internet and satellite.

Although BeoutQ claims they are geo-blocking so that only users in Saudi Arabia have access, we tested this by using a popular VPN to pretend we were in Saudi Arabia.  And as expected, we were easily able to access all the highly priced BeIN sports content, so their claims of geo-blocking falls short.

BeIN pays literally billions of dollars each year to secure the exclusive regional broadcast rights to some of the world’s most popular sporting events, including the upcoming World Cup football. Sports leagues all over the world rely on the revenue from broadcasters like BeIN to cover their costs and support their teams. When a pirate broadcaster like BeoutQ steals expensive content with apparent impunity, and allows anyone around the world to access that content for free, tremors are felt across the entire sports licensing community.

When someone can pirate your “exclusive” content for free, what is the real value of the content? If exclusive rights are not being respected, will they be worth the same amount next year?  Although this case is unique in the world of content piracy, it still illustrates a particular point.

We see time and time again, content owners and rightsholders being slow to respond or not doing everything possible to protect the value of their content. Often, it’s sports rightsholders who sell broadcast rights in secondary markets for small amounts of money, but then do not enforce the geographical restrictions that are part of the contract by insisting that the OTT broadcaster uses proper VPN and DNS Proxy detection and blocking tools to ensure that only people within the contracted territory are able to access the “premium” live sports content. This scenario starts the erosion of content value to the price that the secondary market is charging, which for many “free-to-air” OTT broadcasters, is essentially nothing. 

This is just one example that underlines the importance of protecting the value of content and exclusive rights, in this case by enforcing territorial licensing with VPN blocking. The entire sports licensing world is nervously waiting to see how BeIN and the related rightsholders respond to the massive content piracy and attack on exclusivity by BeoutQ.