Saudi channel beoutQ, an Arabic language sports network, has been streaming content rightfully owned by beIN.

The GCC diplomatic crisis has taken a new turn after Saudi Arabia has been accused of airing sports events that are exclusive to a Qatari sports channel.

According to several media reports, beoutQ, an Arabic language sports network, has been streaming content rightfully owned by beIN.

Doha-based beIN Corporation says it will launch an international investment arbitration case against Saudi Arabia.

$1 billion in damages

The Qatari channel has confirmed that it is seeking US$1 billion in damages over the pirate television network, which is set to escalate the already growing and tense diplomatic crisis.

According to the Financial Times, Qatar has also brought proceedings against Saudi Arabia at the World Trade Organization in Geneva in a separate but related case, claiming the kingdom is in breach of international treaties on the protection of intellectual property.

“Quite clearly, we are being unfairly used as a political football in a wider regional dispute,” said Sophie Jordan, general counsel for beIN Media. “But this case has implications far beyond beIN — in beoutQ, Saudi Arabia has created a plague of piracy and unless the whole sports, entertainment and broadcast industry takes a stand, its impact will be devastating and irreversible.”

The dispute could take months

Reports state that beIN’s case against Saudi Arabia is being brought under the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation Agreement on Investment Protection. However, experts have revealed that the dispute could take months, if not years, to resolve.

Saudi Arabia has denied involvement in beoutQ, but sources claim there’s no smoke without fire. The pirate network screened content that BeIN had paid billions of dollars for exclusive rights, which included English Premier League football matches and F1 Grand Prix races.

The piracy-related cases are the latest in a long line of disputes between Qatar and Saudi Arabia since the kingdom led a siege against Qatar which also included Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. The countries’ accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and forging close ties with Iran. Doha has repeatedly denied the allegations.

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