The Saudi government has terminated beIN’s license for violating its competition law and has imposed a fine of US $2.6m on the Qatari broadcaster.
The Saudi General Authority for Competition (GAC) yesterday terminated beIN Sports’ license to broadcast in the Kingdom in order to “eliminate the monopolistic violation that BeIN Sports has committed”. Although beIN has not been allowed to broadcast in the Kingdom since mid-2017 owing to a diplomatic dispute between the two countries, yesterday’s ruling is considered a permanent termination of the license. The ban will mean that Saudi residents will not be able to legally watch most of the football tournaments including the Premier League to which beIN Sports has the exclusive MENA broadcast rights until the end of the 2021/2022 season.
The Saudi government has also imposed a fine of ten million Saudi riyals (USD 2.6m) on beIN Sports for “the high damages such violation has caused, and to ensure prompt elimination of the violations and any potential harm to the beneficiaries of beIN Sports services in the Kingdom”. All financial gains obtained by the defendant as a result of the violation must also be returned, according to the ruling.
GAC alleged in a statement “that beIN Sports has abused its dominant position through several monopolistic practices with respect to potential subscribers to beIN’s exclusive sports broadcast bundle of the 2016 UEFA European Championship matches”.
“Through product tying process, beIN Sports has compelled potential subscribers of the sports bundle to subscribe to other bundles that include non-sports contents. Subscribers with a valid basic bundle which covers the Euro 2016 tournament, were compelled to renew their subscription in advance for another full year, as a condition to watch the tournament. The sports bundle also had different types of tournaments and sports, that a subscriber would not be interested of, yet still she or he was compelled to pay for the services.”
GAC claimed this was “a clear per se violation of the Competition Law and its Implementing Regulations”.
BeIN Media Group retaliated by calling the ruling “nonsensical” and added that the “decision is not only contrary to international law but also the most basic principles of competition law”.
“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.”
The ruling may complicate Saudi’s Public Investment Fund’s bid to take over Newcastle United, one of the Premier League’s clubs.