Qatar’s World Cup streaming service blocked in Saudi Arabia

A Qatar-based broadcaster is in talks with Fifa after its World Cup streaming service was blocked in Saudi Arabia by that country’s government.

The broadcaster, Bein Sports, holds the rights to World Cup matches in Saudi Arabia and will screen 22 of them free-to-air there.

However, the remaining 42 can only be watched via its streaming service, which has been blocked in Saudi Arabia since an hour before the opening ceremony last Sunday.

Bein is in urgent talks with Fifa to resolve the issue. The timing is strange to say the least, with World Cup enthusiasm at fever pitch in Saudi Arabia after the country’s shock win over Argentina earlier this week.

It also comes amid the context of Saudi Arabia seeking to court favour at Fifa amid its interest in co-hosting the 2030 men’s World Cup, and with the Arab world arguably in the spotlight as never before with Qatar hosting these finals.

It also comes at a time when the Saudi sports minister is giving interviews to UK broadcasters talking about the potential for private Saudi investors to buy Liverpool and Manchester United, and for out-of-contract Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo coming to play in the kingdom.

Diplomatic and commercial relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar had also been improving dramatically in the last two years.

On 6 October last year Saudi Arabia indicated it would end its ban on beIN, which is also a Premier League rights holder, broadcasting in the kingdom. A day later, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund bought a controlling stake in Newcastle.

Bein was also the victim of piracy, with the World Trade Organisation concluding Saudi Arabia had breached its rules by refusing to take action against the pirate network beoutQ.

Fifa and the Saudi government have been contacted for a comment.