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World Cup 2022: Saudis deprived of matches streamed by BeIN Sports

The FIFA World Cup in Qatar is thrilling the people of the Saudi kingdom, who exploded with joy after their team’s victory against Argentina on Tuesday (November 22nd). Despite its defeat on Saturday against Poland (2-0), the national team still has the possibility of qualifying for the round of 16, which would be a first since the 1994 World Cup in the United States. And yet, for some reason unknown at this stage, the Saudi government has been blocking access to the World Cup match streaming platform for a week.

The online streaming service TOD, a branch of the Qatari audiovisual empire BeIN Sports, which holds the rights to broadcast the tournament in the Middle East and North Africa, ceased operation in the kingdom on Sunday November 20, an hour before the opening of the competition. Instead of matches, subscribers to the platform are entitled to an official message stating that “the requested site violates the regulations of the Ministry of Media”.

The move sparked a mixture of frustration and dismay among Saudi football fans, which many expressed on Twitter. But this protest movement remains measured for the moment, because BeIN Sports remains accessible on the satellite channel. The latter has undertaken to broadcast twenty-two of the 64 matches in clear, including those of the Saudi selection.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers For BeIN Sports, “the World Cup is just the start of our ambitions”

bad memories

The management of BeIn Sports refuses for the moment to comment. It contented itself with sending its customers and partners a letter lamenting “the breakdown” and assuring them that additional information will be provided as it becomes available”. But in Doha, this mysterious case obviously brings back bad memories.

Between 2017 and 2021, during the blockade inflicted on Qatar by its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, in retaliation for its refusal to follow their anti-Iranian and anti-Muslim Brotherhood diplomatic line, BeIN Sports had paid the price for a sabotage operation on a scale never seen in the history of television. Throughout this period, all of the content of the sports channel, which has the exclusivity not only of the World Cup, but also of the Champions League and the main European championships, had been siphoned off by a pirate channel, BeOutQ.

The operation had been orchestrated from Saudi territory, at the instigation of the authorities in Riyadh, and in particular Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, known as “MBS”, who, at the same time, had withdrawn BeIN Sports’ broadcasting license in the country. Overnight, this emblem of Qatari sports soft power had disappeared from the screens of the kingdom, in favor of BeOutQ, causing the Doha channel to lose billions of dollars.

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