Saudi Arabia permanently canceled Qatar’s beIN Sports broadcasting license in the Kingdom and fined it 10 million riyals ($2.67 million) for its “monopolistic practices,” the Saudi General Authority for Competition (GAC) said on Tuesday.
The Saudi authority issued a press release stating that after investigating complaints against beIN Sports, it concluded that the Qatari channel “abused” its exclusive broadcast bundle of the 2016 UEFA European Championship.
The authority said beIN Sports “compelled potential subscribers to sports bundle to subscribe to other bundles that include non-sports contents,” compelled subscribers with a valid basic bundle which covered the Euro 2016 tournament to renew their subscription in advance for another year as a pre-requisite to watching the tournament, and compelled subscribers to pay for a sports bundle that “also had different types of tournaments and sports, that a subscriber would not be interested in.”
GAC classified beIN Sports’ practices as a “clear violation” of the competition law and mandated that the channels return all the proceeds obtained as a result of the violation.
In October 2018, Qatar had filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) accusing Saudi Arabia of blocking Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN from broadcasting in the Kingdom and not taking proper measures against the piracy of beIN's content by beoutQ.
Last month, the WTO said in a report that Saudi Arabia’s actions against Qatar were justified under the security exception to the WTO’s intellectual property protection agreement.
Doha had also complained that beIN was denied access to Saudi courts to pursue proceedings regarding piracy of its content by beoutQ. However, the WTO states that the denial of access to the Saudi justice system to Qatari institutions and nationals is part of the Kingdom’s prerogative since it falls under the umbrella of the “comprehensive measures” it took when it severed ties with Qatar.
Saudi Arabia had, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism – a charge Doha denies.