The TV deal powerplay which could see Saudis break BeIN MENA monopoly and make Newcastle United takeover a reality

Saudi Arabia want to bypass BeIN Sports and break up the Qatari football TV monopoly in order to allow citizens to watch the Premier League legally in the kingdom.

Friday, 24th July 2020, 1:37 pm

BeIN streams and frequencies are readily available in KSA but, as things stand, watching the channel, and paying for subscriptions or boxes in the country is illegal - and will remain so indefinitely.

According to Saudi sources, this is something the kingdom is keen to change - and the latest government sanctions on BeIN, they say, underline that.

KSA’s General Authority for Competition has revealed BeIN Sports' license to broadcast in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been "permanently terminated".

They have also fined them 10 million riyals (equivalent to around £2.14 million) due to violations of Saudi competition law, around the tying of customers to subscription deals in order to access their exclusive football content, dating back to BeIN's coverage of the 2016 UEFA European Championships.

A statement from the Saudi GAC claims BeIN Sports "abused its dominant position", being rights holder in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

It states a list of reasons for the sanction and fine, claiming a "product tying process" implemented by BeIN was against the kingdom’s competition rules, with subscribers wanting to view Euro 2016 games "compelled to renew their subscription in advance for another year".

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks to Russian President during the talks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 14, 2019. (Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

There are also understood to be issues regarding packages being sold in the region with payments for movie or entertainment add-ons as conditions for access to sports such as football.

This move by the Saudi authorities is very much seen as a play to break up the Premier League rights monopoly held in the MENA region by BeIN.

In layman's terms, the Saudis effectively want their piece of the pie - and the ability to buy the rights to broadcast the Premier League in their own territory, especially as they have embarked on the high-profile purchase of Newcastle United.

And while this puts the nail in the coffin of the idea of BeIN being opened up to the Saudi people to smooth through the United deal, it does not rule out the idea of a Saudi organisation taking up the mantle, at an increased premium and with recompense paid to BeIN in the process.

It is understood Saudi Telecom Company are the frontrunners to buy out the share of the Premier League deal struck by BeIN, who have seen their football frontman Richard Keys put up the white flag in recent days.

They are also understood to be keen to buy out the rights for the whole region, outbidding BeIN, if that is what is required.

While some sources connected to the deal remain guarded on this latest development, others remain supremely confident the deal will be signed and sealed, with the only variable being timescales for completion, in what has proved a legal minefield for all involved.

In response to the Saudi's latest sanctions, BeIN said: "The decision is nonsensical on every single level, banning BeIN for packaging its rights in the standard way that sports and entertainment broadcasters all around the world do, and indeed as other broadcasters active in the Saudi market also do.

"Moreover, the very idea that permanently banning a leading competitor from a market could in any way promote competition is plainly absurd.

"We would also question - as we have for three years - how Saudi citizens can watch Premier League matches legally in Saudi Arabia with this 'permanent' ban on the Premier League's licensed broadcaster. Or indeed how Saudi citizens can legally watch most major international sport, and how this fits into Saudi Arabia's 2030 Vision."

As things stand, though, it remains illegal to watch Newcastle United play in the Premier League in Saudi Arabia via BeIN Sports, who are the sole rights holder in the MENA region.

The Magpies take on Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow night at St James's Park, with uncertainty reigning supreme, almost 100 days since papers were filed with the Premier League for the ratification of the £300 million deal.