The impact of piracy on beIN Media: is beoutQ the world’s biggest video pirate?

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(Updated Feb. 28)

One of the worlds largest video piracy operations remains active as the piracy operation of beoutQ (*) continues.

The operation commenced in August 2017 and its primary victim, beIN Media Group LLC of Qatar, filed a suit in October 2018 demanding a $1B settlement just for beoutQ’s first six months of operations.

Some of the pirate distribution has been ended – the satellite side of beoutQ has been taken down – but online distribution of beIN Media’s programming continues through a seeming myriad of illegal channels, and that content is being captured, hosted, and redistributed by other pirates in many countries.

A public relations effort

Details of the situation are available at beoutQ.tv, a Web site commissioned by beIN Media in 2018 and updated on a relatively ongoing basis.  The site also provides a detailed listing of the stolen programming being re-distributed by beoutQ, current as of November of that year.

Victims of beoutQ have spoken out.  In July 2019, the African Football Federation said in a news release (**) that beoutQ “fraudulently hijacked” all 36 games of the final phase of the Total African Cup of Nations, which played out in Egypt in mid-July.

In October (2019) beIN Media CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly spoke at the Sports Business Summit in London, saying that piracy has made its exclusive content offers meaningless, that “the very economic model of our industry is going to be re-written,” and that the industry has not taken a serious stance against piracy.

Coinciding with that October event, Leaders in Sport, the organizer of the Sports Business Summit, published a thorough case study beoutQ: an unprecedent piracy story, which is available to download.

And for the official record…

On February 26, 2020, the Office of the United States Trade Representative held a public hearing to gather input for its upcoming 2020 Special 301 Report, which constitutes an official record of global intellectual property issues affecting the United States and the world. beIN Media and Miramax – in which beIN Media is now the majority owner in a joint venture with ViacomCBS – both submitted written testimony, as did a number of others.  That’s a good place to find the status of the situation, as of Q1 2020.

Who’s trying to stop it?

A number of video technology suppliers are involved in attempts to end beoutQ.  An analysis of beoutQ’s custom-built set-top box, which was commissioned by the UEFA and a group of UK sports leagues, was released.  That analysis was conducted by MarkMonitor.

Security supplier Nagra published two detailed reports about beoutQ during 2018: an analysis of beoutQ broadcast piracy dated August, and an analysis of beoutQ’s Android TV-based illicit streaming device and the apps and content available through it, dated November of that year.

In September 2019, industry journalist Videonet interviewed the CTO of beIN Media, joined by a representative of Synamedia.   Other companies and professional services teams who wish to remain anonymous are also involved.

Why this matters

Beyond the obvious – that the beoutQ situation has been terrible for the rights holders and content owners who are losing revenue daily to piracy – it’s noteworthy that so much information has been made available about it.

Readers who are unfamiliar with beoutQ should read these above-linked reference materials thoroughly.

Because it’s so big, the victims clearly decided to take a public stance as a way to educate the video industry about the very real risks and losses, and to help spur law enforcement, government agencies and regulators into action.  This level of awareness across the broader video industry is only good.

An interesting January 2020 wrinkle

In January 2020, the UK newspaper, The Guardian, reported that a Saudi-based wealth fund put forth a £340M offer to buy the English soccer team Newcastle United, which has a strong chance of approval.  As a Premier League club, its broadcasts, ironically, are distributed by beoutQ.  Who is to say what the beoutQ case’s legal footing would become if the team were acquired.

(*) Why the name beoutQ?  It’s a play on beIN Media out of Qatar.

(**) The original CAF press release is in French, translated to English by Google.

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