Serie A and beIN SPORTS Reach Agreement to End Blackout

Serie A has been forced to accept a huge reduction in its bumper three-year deal with Qatar-based broadcaster beIN SPORTS.

The company recently suspended coverage across the territories in which it holds the broadcast rights due to the failure of Serie A bosses to tackle piracy effectively.

beIN SPORTS has been impacted heavily by the theft of its content, with illegal Saudi Arabia streaming outfit beoutQ the main culprits.

The two parties were midway through a three-year $500 million agreement, but they have now renegotiated a significantly reduced rate.

A spokesperson for beIN Media Group said: “The agreement reached regarding Serie A sets a major precedent, reinforcing what beIN and other international broadcasters have been saying for years: if rights holders don’t tackle piracy, they’ll only receive non-exclusive fees.”

The company had previously expressed its disappointment that Serie A staged the Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, with the country’s ties to beoutQ cited as the main reason.

Yousef Al-Obaidly, the CEO of beIN Media Group, outlined his unhappiness with the media rights landscape at a Leaders in Sport event last October.

He warned sports rights holders that he would actively seek financial redress against organisations who failed to take piracy seriously.

“I’m here to tell you how the endless growth of sports rights is over,” he said. “Not only that, but in certain cases, rights values are going drop off a cliff, and the very economic model of our industry is going to be rewritten.

“Any rights holders who think that the technology companies of the West Coast are their financial saviours are going to be swiftly disappointed.

“Seemingly, everyone in this industry is asleep at the wheel and refuses to confront the piracy elephant that’s been in the room for years.

“We now live in a world where exclusive broadcast rights are, effectively, wholly non-exclusive. Think about that: non-exclusive.

“Consumers, young and old, are accessing everything for nothing – via a Kodi or a VPN or beoutQ – wherever they are, whenever they like, and this behaviour is being normalised.”

Al-Oblaidy has long been calling for better resourcing of anti-piracy efforts and the creation of a culture where a broadcaster’s rights are fully protected.

He is eager to see more significant lobbying efforts from sports organisations, prosecution of pirates and the ending of cooperation with governments that support piracy.

In a recent interview with SportsPro’s Insider Series, Cameron Andrews, BeIN Media Group’s legal director for anti-piracy, backed up the views of his boss.

He said that the failure of some organisations to tackle the threat posed by illegal outfits such as beoutQ is an issue that needs addressing as a matter of urgency.

“I think some rights owners are certainly aware of that and are very engaged,” he said. “But, unfortunately, I think a lot of other rights owners are still quite some way behind.”

“I would really encourage rights owners to get together and form some sort of formalised body to tackle piracy.

“If you look at the motion picture world, they have quite formalised structures to take on piracy, and they put significant amounts of money into doing that. I just don’t see the same thing happening among sports rights owners.”

The revision of the deal between beIN and Serie A is undoubtedly a shot across the bows of all the major sports rights holders.

While Serie A has been caught napping, the Premier League appears to be taking the threat of piracy much more seriously.

They are hoping to secure expanded powers ahead of the 2020/21 season, which will force internet service providers to block computer servers hosting illegal streams as soon as the league’s anti-piracy operatives identify them.

However, it remains to be seen how effective those measures would be, as many pirate services run through foreign networks outside the jurisdiction of British law enforcement.