BeIN Sports, the Doha broadcaster, has made deep cuts and laid off nearly a fifth of its workers after the company said its revenues had been hit by online piracy of its TV channels.
At least 300 employees, or 18 per cent of the company’s staff, were let go in a move the company described as a “difficult decision to right-size our business”.
BeIN had risen to prominence by outbidding its rivals to win the exclusive rights to broadcast major sporting events including the men’s football World Cup, English Premier League and Wimbledon tennis.
The news came shortly after a French court said it found no evidence of “clear and illegal disruption” to the Qatar-based broadcaster by Arab Satellite Communications Organization based in Saudi Arabia. BeIN had previously accused Arabsat of carrying illegal broadcasts by BeoutQ. The court ruling established beyond doubt that these allegations were false.
The subscription-based BeIN Sports says it has been hit hard by unlicensed online streaming of its content. While the phenomenon of illegal streaming is a global issue that affects everything from the latest blockbusters to live sports, few major channels have made staff cuts because of it.
BeIN has also been accused for not taking steps to prevent illegal streaming, with the Premier League restricting the channels access to games for several weeks in 2014 saying it was allowing UK based illegal streaming sites to re-broadcast its content.
BeIN says the issue of BeoutQ is part of the wider diplomatic rift with other Gulf states, although it is unclear who owns or operates the service.
As well as cutting staff, the channel has also walked away from new bids for other sports rights, including Formula 1 motor racing.
Separately, the former Uefa President Michel Platini was arrested yesterday as the investigation into corruption related to the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar continues. Mr Platini denies any wrongdoing.