Global motorsport series Formula One has launched an investigation into illegal broadcasts by BeoutQ, the pirate streaming service currently embroiled in controversy for its illegal distribution of the 2018 Fifa World Cup in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The signal was allegedly taken from BeIN Sport, the Qatar-based broadcaster that holds the exclusive Formula One rights for the MENA region.
In a statement, the Liberty Media-owned sports property said: “BeoutQ has not acquired any rights from Formula One to transmit coverage of the Formula One World Championship. Formula One takes intellectual property infringement of this nature extremely seriously, we are looking in to the issue and those that are involved and will take appropriate action.”
Saudi Arabia’s Information Ministry has hit back at Liberty’s claims that it is hosting the BeoutQ pirate service.
Soccer’s global governing body, Fifa, and its European governing body, Uefa, both condemned BeoutQ broadcasts of World Cup matches last week, while several broadcasters, including BeIN Sports, Telemundo and NBCUniversal have complained that their content – including coverage of the ongoing Fifa World Cup in Russia – is being shown illegally on the platform.
Qatar-based BeIN has described the pirate channel as a major operation with multi-million dollar ties to the Saudi Arabian government.
“The pirate channel BeoutQ is not a small outfit operating out of someone’s bedroom. This is piracy on a massive commercial scale with multimillion dollar funding underpinning,” said Tom Keaveny, managing director of the media organisation.
“The pirated signal is being transmitted by the Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat, whose largest shareholder is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Fifa has refused to mention the location of the pirate streaming service, but has said it is weighing legal action against the channel, while Uefa became the first soccer governing body last week to allege that BeoutQ is based in Saudi Arabia, and claimed the service has illegal distributed coverage of the Uefa Champions League and Europa League soccer tournaments throughout the 2017/18 season.
A trade ban between Saudi Arabia and Qatar - where BeIN is based - appears to be the reason for BeoutQ being established, though Saudi Arabia has denied any official connection with the pirate broadcaster.
The country’s Ministry of Media said in a statement that Uefa’s accusation was “baseless”, adding that it is “contrary to what is occurring in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”