beIN takes Middle East by surprise with free-to-air World Cup offer | Programming | News | Rapid TV News
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In an unexpected move, beIN Media is making 22 of the World Cup’s 64 football matches available for free across the Arab world, including today’s opening match between host Russia and Saudi Arabia.
beIN WorldCup 14June2018

Football fans in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will be able to catch live action from the World Cup on beIN’s free-to-air channels, the regional media rights holder has announced.

beIN’s free-to-air programming will include all group games involving Egypt and Saudi Arabia, together with selected quarter and semi-final matches, and the World Cup final on Sunday 15 July.

“The landmark deal represents a clear statement and gesture of goodwill by the global broadcaster to offer its content to the widest possible Arabic audiences,” the Qatari media group said in a statement.

All 64 matches will still be offered by beIN to paying subscribers through four dedicated World Cup channels. It is unclear yet whether those who bought subscriptions will be compensated for those matches that will now be made available for free, following beIN’s announcement today.

“It is our honor and pleasure to offer free-to-air access to 22 FIFA World Cup matches, offering the most memorable moments of the World Cup to millions of football fans across the Middle East and North Africa,” said Nasser Al Khelaifi, chairman and CEO of beIN Media Group.

“Our region has some of the most passionate, dedicated and knowledgeable football fans in the world, and we are delighted to be able to open up access to the tournament to the multitude of fans who will tune in across region over the coming weeks. This is the first time we have made our content so widely available as we realise how significant and unifying this tournament is for our region.”

beIN has also announced three additional local market sub-licensing deals with national public broadcasters: in Morocco with Société Nationale de Radiodiffusion et de Télévision (SNRT), Tunisia with Establissement de la Radiodiffusion-Television Tunisienne (ERTT), and Lebanon with Télé Liban.

“Today marks the start of a quite unique global festival of sport, and beIN is proud to play its part in bringing this joy to football fans all across our region,” added Nasser Al Khelaifi.

The announcement comes after **Egypt had threatened to compel FIFA to release terrestrial rights to air matches played by its football team, along with quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.

The pirate TV network beoutQ, which beIN has previously accused of illegally tapping its satellite feed, had also been widely expected to illegally transmit the matches in Saudi Arabia.

Subscriptions to beIN Media have been effectively prohibited in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as well as Bahrain as part of the countries’ diplomatic and economic blockade of Qatar, which began just over a year ago.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, via FIFA, had failed to reach agreement last week with beIN to secure the 22 matches for their own terrestrial broadcasters .

“Now beIN Media is offering 22 matches for free to anyone in MENA with a satellite dish targeting the Eutelsat 7 West A and the Es’hailSat satellites; that means the vast majority of MENA TV households. More importantly, there is no need for a beIN subscription, a beIN set-top box and a beIN card, as the 22 matches will be free,” said Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, senior analyst, IHS Markit.

“So, in essence, beIN wants to lure the football fans in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain – in my view that it is a PR coup,” he added.