How did Qatar lose its audience?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Most UAE residents today do not watch Qatari television channels, including Al-Jazeera. They don’t even watch them via the internet or social media pages.

In the real world, they no longer exist even if they are registered on receivers. This is because most television services are linked to telecom service providers and now that they are suspended, they disappeared.

In Saudi Arabia, and in most of the region’s countries though at a lesser extent, hackers gained the audience of the Qatari beIN channel. They provide the same service in HD and for around one quarter of the amount.

Scientifically speaking, Qatar’s media empire is collapsing. It did not only lose around $5 billion which it invested in news channels, sports contracts, movies, multiple-platform broadcast networks, websites and social media accounts which are directed from Doha, Istanbul and London but it also lost all political messages it aimed to convey through them.

Qatar thought it could scare the region’s governments with the idea that it manages audiences from afar

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Failed attempts

Qatar’s attempts to incite against the war in Yemen, its attempt to support Iran and attack the Saudi government’s internal decisions failed. Doha even failed at defending itself in the dispute with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE.

Perhaps losing billions of dollars is what worries the Qatari government the most compared with its political and propaganda losses. To Qatar, this propaganda is its project, and it is a strategic factor and the source of its significance. Qatar thought it could scare the region’s governments with the idea that it manages audiences from afar.

The countries that have a dispute with Qatar used to be patient as they tolerated the practices by Doha’s networks and branching networks. However, when the recent dispute surfaced, it included the media in the battle. Everything that Qatar invested in throughout the years, such as skills and technologies, as well as the multiple brands it created and the audience it gained was struck to death. What happened?

A series of consecutive measures were adopted such as disconnecting Qatar’s media networks, confronting them via opposing networks and mobilizing counter digital armies.

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The countries which rely on cable networks and dial-up for television broadcast shut down dozens of Qatari channels including those that broadcast under different names that are actually owned by Qatar. This included political, documentary, children, drama and movie channels.

Most viewers – like the case is in the UAE – lost access to these channels on their televisions and mobile phones, except for those who still them via satellite receiver dishes. So why haven’t people rushed to other means to get access to these channels, such as by resorting to proxies, like what used to happen in the past? It’s because there are many alternative and suitable channels that compensate them for the Qatari ones.

Another move also struck Qatar’s sports networks in the core as channels which broadcast sports games and matches for cheap prices encouraged many to give up their subscriptions with Qatar’s television networks.

Overpriced sums

Qatar had adopted the policy of seizing the sports-related rights of all associations they own, particularly big ones in Spain, Britain, France and Italy. It bought them for overpriced sums, which are estimated at around $2 billion in order to prevent other television service providers from even considering to compete with it for years to come.

Some may condemn involving sports in political confrontations. This is true. However, it was Qatar who violated international regulations when it exploited its monopoly over sports’ channels and mobilized international players to talk via its channels and condemn boycotting Qatar when most of them do not even know how to locate Qatar on a map!

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Its sports television network which is the most expensive in the region is not based on commercial bases. Hackers thus worsened Qatar’s losses, doubled them and destroyed whatever audience – which it wanted to politically use to serve its own purposes – it had gained in the region.

My next article will be about digital armies’ fierce wars in the confrontation against Qatar and governments’ attempts in general to regain control of the initiative and to regain its audiences whom they lost in the past ten years.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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