Telemundo said that pirate network BeoutQ takes its live feed and is distributing it on its platform. “We take intellectual property infringement seriously,” NBCUniversal said, adding that it is working with FIFA to protect its rights. NBCUniversal paid FIFA a reported US$600 million for the American Spanish language rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.
Eleven Sports Networks also said also said that its live rights, which don’t include the World Cup, have been pirated by BeoutQ. “This unauthorised streaming of Eleven Sports’ services seriously infringes our intellectual property rights. We are looking into this issue and we will take the appropriate course of action.”
These accusations follow the conflict between Qatar-based BeIn Sport, who owns the exclusive live rights to all 2018 World Cup games in the Middle East and North Africa, and BeoutQ.
Following the piracy of its World Cup coverage, BeIn Sport has integrated a ticker on its broadcasts showing FIFA’s statement in an attempt to warn BeoutQ customers that they are watching a stolen feed of the World Cup. However, images on Twitter show that BeoutQ has since put its own information ticker over that of BeIn’s in an effort to conceal the FIFA statement.
The illegal coverage has grown out of a trade ban between various Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, which means fans in the former country are not able to watch BeIn. This has resulted in the World Cup not being officially broadcast in Saudi Arabia, despite its national team featuring at the tournament for the first time since 2006. FIFA tried unsuccessfully to broker a deal that would have allowed games to be shown in Saudi Arabia.
Instead, Saudi viewers were given access to the BeoutQ feed which illegally offers the same content available on BeIn, which is reported to have lost as much as 40% of its subscriber base as a result of losing the 900,000 customers it had in Saudi Arabia before the trade war started.
Meanwhile, Paul Nicholson, of the Inside World Football news site, has casted doubt about FIFA’s intentions with upholding BeIn’s exclusive World Cup rights, as he wrote “The pictures flashed around the world of FIFA president Gianni Infantino sitting majestically between his two new best friends, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on his right and Valdimir Putin on his left at the opening match of the 2018 World Cup, will have left FIFA’s high paying rightsholders wondering if there is another game in play that they are not part of. […} The issue for Infantino is that the piracy is not just that of a rogue satellite operator, but of a state-supported broadcaster deliberately stealing rights to undermine a neighbour in a sports rights war that has become part of a wider geo-political agenda.”