BeIN calls end to Bundesliga coverage in MENA over piracy, but renews in Aus-NZ
By Jonathan Rest
BeIN Sports, the international pay-television broadcaster, will not be showing the Bundesliga in the Middle East and North Africa in the 2020-21 season, which gets under way this evening, after failing to agree terms in a market where it believes rights have been seriously devalued by the surge in piracy.
BeIN insisted market factors have led to the decision, but is retaining a commitment to the Bundesliga, for which it has renewed deals in Australia and New Zealand to the end of the 2022-23 season.
A deal in France still has one more season to run.
BeIN's five-year, $250 million Bundesliga deal covering 24 territories in MENA expired at the end of the 2019-20 season and renewal talks had gone right to the wire, before the broadcaster ended negotiations.
The league began on Friday evening with champions Bayern Munich hosting Schalke.
Richard Verow, chief sports officer at BeIN, said in a statement to Sportcal: “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 & 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.”
Robert Klein, chief executive of Bundesliga International, the league's worldwide commercial sales arm, told Sportcal: "The Bundesliga has not reached commercial terms with BeIN and therefore not renewed. The growth and popularity of the Bundesliga in the region means we are in active discussion with interested parties to bring our football to serve our millions of fans there.
"Our proposition is wide ranging and impactful, and with the next two big world football events being held in the region (2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar] and then in Germany [Euro 2024], the Bundesliga offering will act as a natural anchor, with the right partner(s) during this highly engaging time for sports and football fans."
BeIN is banned from operating in Saudi Arabia because of a long-running diplomatic dispute with Qatar, while the Saudi government has been found responsible for piracy of broadcasts carried out by beoutQ, the network based in the country that has been stealing BeIN's premium sports content, including the Bundesliga.
In June, BeIN renegotiated the final year of its contract with Italy's Serie A for the 2020-21 season and while the deal remains exclusive, the fee "reflects how BeIN was sold exclusive rights, but which have been non-exclusive due to piracy."
BeIN holds rights to Serie A for the 2018-19 to 2020-21 cycle in 35 territories, including France, Turkey, Australia and the Middle East and North Africa, paying around €155 million ($184 million) per season in a deal with the IMG agency.
BeIN had been particularly angered by Serie A playing two successive editions of the annual Supercoppa in Saudi Arabia
In 2019, BeIN decided against renewing its Formula 1 rights deal in MENA, claiming the motor racing series had done little to help combat piracy in the region.