QT-Online / Saturday, January 25, 2020 / Categories: Top News beIN CEO reiterates call for more action on piracy Tribune News Network Doha beIN Media Group CEO Yousef al Obaidly has been one of the few voices at the forefront of anti-piracy fight across the MENA region. Promoted to the role of chief executive of Qatar-based BeIN Media Group in November 2018, Obaidly oversees a broadcasting powerhouse operating in 43 countries – its presence spans the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), France, the USA, Canada and 11 territories in the Asia-Pacific region - and one that has spent some $15 billion on a portfolio of sports rights. “If we look at the things we have been doing in year one, we are truly global,” noted Obaidly to sportspromedia.net which ranked him in the 2020 top 10 sports influencers. “We are not only a MENA business – a lot of people think we are sports and MENA in short, but there are a lot of things that we have been doing across the globe.” It would be fair to say, though, that of the challenges to which Obaidly refers, one has been quite unlike any other previously confronted by a broadcaster. Saudi Arabia-backed piracy operation BeoutQ – or “one of the biggest issues that has faced our sports and entertainment industry”, as Obaidly described it – has been an unwelcome distraction for beIN for well over two years. A parasite, the company has struggled to contain as it has slowly infected various strands of its business. With beoutQ chipping away at the very core of beIN’s business, it is tempting to label Obaidly’s job as one of the most testing in sports broadcasting. “Of course, as a chief executive, certain hurdles will come your way, but you have to overcome them and you have to fight them, and you have to do what you can collectively with your team. I think, we are maturing as a management team – the issues we have navigated are completely unique. We have to run a global business, and you have this big thing in the background of beoutQ. I cannot think of a CEO in the industry who probably faces as many challenges as we have, (including) the attempt of the theft of our entire business by a state.” beoutQ originally transmitted ten encrypted channels via Riyadh-based satellite operator Arabsat, offering access to all of beIN’s premium sports content, ranging from the 2018 FIFA World Cup to Formula One motor racing - and everything in between. Even now, the situation remains far from a resolution. In an ideal world, al Obaidly says, beIN “should be allowed to operate” in Saudi Arabia and that “the rule of law should also be respected”. He adds that beoutQ set-top boxes “need to be confiscated” and “those responsible, including Arabsat, should be held accountable”. However, Obaidly reveals that while beoutQ is now down from satellites, its IPTV-enabled boxes – which provide access to virtually every sports and entertainment channel around the world – “remain out there and still functional”. “Basically it’s like changing your car from an automatic to manual,” he adds. Last year, it was Obaidly who famously made headlines during a public appearance at a sports business conference in London. It was then he delivered the sobering news that “the glorious media rights bubble is about to burst”, telling a room full of decision-makers that the pillars upon which the industry has grown in recent years are being eroded. “I’m a true believer of that , and I was very vocal about that during my speech. “The endless growth of sports rights is over – some rights holders might get lucky in some markets, but I think the majority of them will see a decline. In certain cases rights values are going to drop off completely, and I think the economic model of our industry will be changed. “I always find fascinating when you go to the negotiating table and people tell you, ‘we have the West Coast company and they will be very competitive’. If we have seen it, and we have seen it slightly, I think they will be very disappointed – we’re not there yet. “If you look at customers, whether they’re young or old, they’re accessing everything for nothing. Today, wherever they are, this behaviour has been completely normalised, and it’s just a habit of people accessing content. And with the internet, it’s just going to continue for people to access content for nothing, or almost for free.” Obaidly also noted that exclusivity in the MENA region is in short supply, but despite recent efforts to secure the long-term future of its business in France and elsewhere, he is quick to dismiss the notion that the broadcaster is about to pivot away from its home market any time soon. “Well, I’m from Qatar, I’m from the Middle East, so the Middle East is always going to be the heartbeat of our business,” Obaidly says. “We are looking to grow across the Middle East and North Africa, exploit all the markets and the passion for sport. Other markets are really positive for us, so we will continue to remain global, but the Middle East will always be at the heart and the centre of everything we do.” Obaidly describes Qatar as having “huge, huge ambition” in sport, and is also keen to point out that “all roads will lead to Qatar 2022”, when beIN will broadcast the first-ever edition of the FIFA World Cup to take place in the Middle East – an event he said beIN wants to use the opportunity “to bring the world to Qatar, and Qatar to the world.” For now though, beIN will broadcast the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Euro 2020 in the MENA region. There are also plans to evolve the company’s beIN Connect over-the-top (OTT) streaming offering and build on new initiatives – namely BeINspired and the BeIN Academy – launched last year. Al Obaidly revealed that “some new hires are coming from big, big organisations” to join the company’s management team. 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