MBC picks up F1 free-to-air MENA rights

BeIN Sports bows out ahead of UAE broadcaster’s five-year championship deal.

MBC picks up F1 free-to-air MENA rights

Getty Images

The MBC Group has secured exclusive rights to broadcast Formula One in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), after Qatar-based pay-TV broadcaster BeIN Sports decided not to renew its rights to the championship in the region.

The United Arab Emirates-based (UAE) free-to-air network secured a five-year contract with the global motorsport series, which was signed in time to show the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

As part of its agreement with Formula One owners Liberty Media, MBC had special technical and logistical arrangements put in place to cover the season opener in Melbourne, and the broadcaster will now go on to air every stage of the 2019 campaign, including testing, qualifiers, and races.

The series heads to Middle East next week ahead of the Bahrain grand Prix on 31st March, and will return to the region at the end of November, in time for the season’s finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 1st December.

"This marks the return of the world’s biggest motorsport event to a free-to-air network in the MENA region, following years of being available on subscription-only networks," the company said in a statement.

BeIN Sports, which overtook Abu Dhabi Media as Formula One’s MENA rights holder in 2014, announced last month that it would not be extending its five-year contract with Liberty Media in a stand against piracy in Saudi Arabia, where pirate broadcaster BeoutQ has been stealing BeIN’s content for more than a year.

BeoutQ is subject to a US$1 billion international investment arbitration brought against Saudi Arabia last October, while BeIN has also requested the US government intervene by placing Saudi Arabia on Priority Watch List.

Last week, BeIN confirmed it was also launching a legal action against the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) after the governing body cancelled the broadcaster’s regional rights to its soccer competitions in Saudi Arabia and took intellectual rights onto its own social channels.