The beoutQ case: A study in mass-scale piracy and geopolitical intrigue

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This page provides a reference resource about the beoutQ piracy operation, part of a geo-political dispute between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar that ran from mid-2017 through late 2019.  Aftershocks were still being felt in 2022.

In addition to sports programming stolen from its primary victim beIN Media (which beoutQ was named after), the operation illegally redistributed programming from multiple movie studios, the NBA and NFL, Formula 1, the Olympic Games, and sports bodies including UEFA, the Premier League and LaLiga.  It also captured and illegally redistributed tens of thousands of on-demand assets.

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Details from beIN Media:

“Following the suspension of diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017, Saudi Arabia initiated a series of abusive measures specifically targeting global broadcaster beIN, with the objective of forcing the Qatar-headquartered company out of the local broadcasting market and destroying the value of beIN’s investments in Saudi Arabia.

“The unlawful and unilateral measures include:

• revoking beIN’s legal right to operate in the jurisdiction;
• prohibiting the broadcast of beIN channels;
• banning the importation and distribution of beIN set-top boxes;
• suspending all monetary transactions with beIN; and
• blocking access to beIN’s websites and call centre.

“In addition to these measures, Saudi Arabia … flagrantly breached international law and norms by actively supporting the broadcast TV pirate channel named “beoutQ”.

Legal action

In 2018, beIN Media initiated a legal action against the Kingdom to collect damages of $1 billion.

Read the full press release, “beIN launches +US$1 billion dollar arbitration against Saudi Arabia as legal actions intensify following beoutQ and Arabsat mass-piracy of world sport,” October 1, 2018

The end of beoutQ

beoutQ ceased operations in 2019.  In 2020, the World Trade Organization published a conclusion that the beoutQ operation was backed by Saudi Arabia.

There also were ongoing concerns as the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia put forth a bid to buy the English Newcastle United football club.  Objections lodged by human rights groups, combined with pressure by beIN Media on the English Premier League not to approve the acquisition, promoted a withdrawal of the purchase bid in 2020.    

End of the story?

Following subsequent negotiations and pressure from Newcastle United against the Premier League to recognize the PIF as an entity separate from the Kingdom – the purchase was completed.  With the end of the piracy operation, the thawing of diplomatic relations between Qatar by Saudi Arabia, and the Newcastle purchase, the broader affair seems to have reached a conclusion.

Documentation for the ages

beIN Media maintains a reference site about the beoutQ case, which it updates periodically.  It details the piracy operation, provides a timeline, identifies the stolen content and its sources, and responses by commercial interests and governmental bodies, including The Office of the US Trade Representative’s Notorious Markets and Special 301 reports.

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