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Saudi Arabia blocks Qatari beIN’s World Cup streaming platform

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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has blocked Qatari broadcaster BeIN’s popular streaming service TOD.tv since the start of the World Cup on Nov. 20, according to a Reuters witness, in a sudden disruption after 10 months of smooth operations.

BeIN Sports, with its online platforms including TOD.tv, is the official broadcaster of the 2022 soccer World Cup to audiences in the Middle East and North Africa.

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Accessing the TOD.tv page from within Saudi Arabia prompts a page that reads, “Sorry, the requested page is violating the regulations of the ministry of media.” BeIN channels in general were still available via satellite dishes.

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TOD.tv sent a message to its subscribers in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 24 saying it was experiencing an outage.

“Due to matters beyond our control, we are experiencing an outage in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is currently impacting TOD.tv, the official streaming partner of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” the company said in a email obtained by Reuters.

The Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters outside office hours. FIFA did not immediately respond.

BeIN declined to comment.

Twitter users have inundated TOD.tv’s account with messages demanding their subscription fees be returned after the outage, or posting with the hashtag “Media ministry blocks TOD.”

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the opening ceremony of the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East. At a later Saudi match, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani wore a Saudi flag around his neck.

The moves were seen as signs that Qatar and Saudi Arabia had resumed their relationship after Riyadh and its allies severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in 2017 over accusations Doha supported terrorism, a charge Qatar has denied.

That year, beIN was blocked in Saudi Arabia.

In 2020, the World Trade Organization (WTO) found Saudi Arabia had breached global rules on intellectual property rights by failing to prosecute pirate TV channel beoutQ for piracy of beIN’s content.

That same year, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition canceled beIN Sports’ license.

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It began broadcasting again in Saudi in 2021.

In October, a source familiar with beIN told Reuters that Saudi equity firms and U.S. investors were considering an investment in beIN. Bloomberg had reported that Saudi wealth fund PIF had shown interest in the broadcaster.

TOD, a beIN streaming platform that exclusively hosts beIN Sports content as well as other Middle Eastern entertainment shows, is competing with Saudi-owned MBC Group’s platform Shahid for millions of subscribers in the region. (Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in Riyadh and Maya Gebeily in Doha, Qatar, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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