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Qatar’s beIN Sports picks Saudi firm as $150m advertising partner

REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon
BeIN Sports signed an agreement with Riyadh-based SMC MC for all its channels, including coverage of the World Cup

Qatar-based beIN, a sports broadcaster that was banned in Saudi Arabia until last year, said on Wednesday it had chosen a Saudi firm as its exclusive advertising partner in the Middle East and North Africa in a deal that a source put at some $150 million.

BeIN Sports said in a statement it had signed an agreement with Riyadh-based media representation firm SMC MC for all its channels and including coverage of the soccer World Cup, of which Qatar is the 2022 host.

“The deal is in the region of $150 million,” a source familiar with beIN told Reuters.

The deal comes nearly two years after Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states announced an end to a dispute with Qatar that had seen the four nations sever political, trade and travel ties with Doha.

The row played out at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where Qatar filed a complaint against Saudi Arabia for blocking beIN from broadcasting in the kingdom and refusing to take effective action against alleged piracy of beIN’s content, which Riyadh denied.

The two countries in January notified the WTO that they were mutually suspending remaining requests before its dispute resolution body.

In a sign of further strengthening of Qatari-Saudi ties, the source told Reuters that Saudi equity firms and US investors were considering an investment in beIN. Bloomberg earlier this month reported that Saudi wealth fund PIF had shown interest in beIN.

BeIN Sports is the official broadcaster of the 2022 soccer World Cup in most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and also in France.

Last year, Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on beIN, removing a key obstacle in the way of the PIF’s takeover of English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition had, in 2020, cancelled the licence of the broadcaster, which had been barred in the kingdom since mid-2017 when the Gulf dispute erupted. It was resolved in January 2021.

The Saudi national team is set to play in the World Cup, which kicks off November 20 in Doha. Tens of thousands of Saudi fans are expected to visit Qatar during the month-long tournament.